Lawyers shoot down proposed cooldown period for pardon bids

Lawyer Andrew Khoo says there could be cases where an application needs to be considered quickly, as when an applicant is terminally ill.

(FMT) – Lawyers have poured cold water on an anti-corruption body’s proposal to impose a minimum waiting period before applications for pardons can be made.

Lawyer Andrew Khoo said there could be cases under different circumstances where an application for a royal pardon would need to be considered as soon as possible,”for example, for someone who is convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail but who is terminally ill”.

Khoo said he was not in favour of the suggestion from the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).

“The Pardons Board should retain the flexibility to decide how soon to consider an application,” he told FMT.

Former Bar Council president Salim Bashir said knee-jerk reactions calling for changes to the pardon process could result in injustice and unnecessary problems for certain convicts, especially those facing health issues.

“It is the absolute prerogative of mercy for the King or state rulers to consider or reject the application for pardon independently of the Pardon Board’s advice. Holistic studies must be carried out before any amendments are made to the Federal Constitution and prison regulations (regarding pardon applications),” he said.

Khoo said the Pardons Board should disclose the grounds and rationale behind its decisions, to ensure public trust in the pardon process is safeguarded. “They should disclose what matters they took into consideration when arriving at their recommendation,” he said.

Every Pardons Board should be mindful of the implications of their recommendation to the King or sultan, as such decisions could have an impact on the administration of justice and rule of law, he said.

C4’s proposal was made earlier, in response to the pardons board commuting the jail sentence and fine on former prime minister Najib Razak.

The centre suggested imposing a minimum waiting period before applications for pardons can be made. As an example, it cited Canada, which imposes a minimum waiting period and requires applicants to furnish evidence of substantial injustice or undue hardship from the nature of the sentence or conviction.

Malaysia’s Prisons Regulations 2000 provides that a prisoner may submit a petition for a royal pardon on their conviction or sentence to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or the state ruler or governor, “as soon as practicable” after their conviction.

If unsuccessful, a prisoner can send a second petition three years after their conviction, and subsequently one every two years, unless there are special circumstances.

Najib had applied for a royal pardon on Sept 2, 2022, after starting his 12-year jail sentence on Aug 23 that year in Kajang prison.