Silence over Najib’s reduced sentence the better choice for DAP, say analysts

Azmi Hassan and James Chin say DAP must tread the issue with care and choose its battles wisely.

(FMT) – Analysts say DAP has little reason to openly criticise the reduction of sentence for former prime minister Najib Razak in his SRC International case, and that the party should instead exercise caution in any address of the matter.

Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara said DAP needed to “tread the issue carefully”, failing which the party could be perceived as blaming the former Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, over his discretion to commute Najib’s sentence.

He also said that Malay voters were “very wary” of DAP due to its outspokenness, and that they did not trust Umno to safeguard their interests and religion.

DAP would run the risk of “inflaming” the 20% to 30% of the Malay electorate which still supported Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Umno, he said.

Speaking to FMT, he said Najib still had another six years of his prison sentence to serve, without taking into consideration any remission.

He added that the former leader would not be eligible to run for the 16th general election, and that the following one would be far off in the future.

Azmi Hassan.

“So there is no reason for them (DAP) to be vocal just to satisfy their voters, no, I don’t think so. They (would otherwise be) playing a very dangerous game,” he said.

The Federal Territories Pardons Board announced on Feb 2 a reduction of Najib’s prison sentence in the SRC International case from 12 years to six. His fine was also reduced from RM210 million to RM50 million, but with an additional year added to the sentence if he failed to pay the amount.

On Feb 5, former Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming said that DAP’s leadership must make its position clear on the 1MDB scandal, the probe on Tony Pua, and its commitment to institutional reform.

Pua, who is DAP’s former Damansara MP, is facing a sedition probe over his Facebook posts on Najib’s reduced sentence. The posts allegedly insulted royalty.

Saying that “we should call a spade, a spade”, Ong claimed that the decision announced by the pardons board to reduce Najib’s sentence was a move to “placate” the former prime minister’s supporters in Umno.

“If this is the strategy moving forward, then DAP would not be very different from MCA in the past which relied on scaring the Chinese into supporting Barisan Nasional for fear that the community would not get any representation in government,” he said in a statement.

Azmi dismissed Ong’s suggestion that DAP would become another MCA, saying DAP was considered a “kingmaker” within the PH compared with the role played by MCA.

University of Tasmania’s James Chin also rubbished the suggestion, saying MCA “became Umno’s lackey” over a course of more than 60 years of Umno’s rule.

James Chin.

Chin added that DAP leaders “don’t have a real choice” but to stand behind the decision to grant Najib the reduced sentence, saying the party must “choose its battles carefully”.

“This means that those like (DAP secretary-general) Loke Siew Fook, who represents DAP in government, somewhat have no choice but to go with the rest of the government. But of course, this doesn’t mean that the rest of DAP cannot say anything,” he said.

Chin said most people understood that the component parties of the unity government “have their hands tied” in the matter.

“So most people will be outraged, but the fallout will be limited. After a while, people will realise that it’s better to stick with the unity government rather than (switch support to) the Perikatan Nasional side,” he said.