New twist in Najib’s bid to serve jail term at home as two ministers dispute claims over supposed royal order

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has filed an affidavit saying Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz showed him a copy of a royal order approving Najib’s house arrest. But Mr Tengku Zafrul is disputing the claims as having “certain factual errors”.

(CNA) – Jailed former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s bid to serve the remainder of his six-year sentence at home has taken on a dramatic twist, with two Cabinet ministers now embroiled in the saga.

Najib is seeking the court’s approval to start legal proceedings against Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration for it to produce an addendum order reportedly issued by Malaysia’s former king Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah of Pahang that allows him to serve the rest of his sentence at home.

The fate of the former premier’s application will only be known on Jun 5 after a high court judge on Wednesday (Apr 17) approved his lawyer’s request for the case to be heard behind closed doors and fixed the date for the verdict.

But new drama ensued when several media outlets including CNA received a copy of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s affidavit, in which he claimed Investment, Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had shown him a copy of a royal order approving the house arrest. The latter has issued a statement disputing the claims as having “certain factual errors”.

With two Cabinet ministers now implicated in a legal issue concerning royal sensitivities, and what has been seen as excessive leniency for a man who was initially jailed for 12 years on corruption charges linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, analysts told CNA that Mr Anwar could emerge on the losing end.

If Najib is successful in his bid to begin legal proceedings against the government, it will be difficult for Mr Anwar to explain why his administration chose not to disclose the addendum, they said.

Mr Ahmad Zahid’s actions will also create a rift between the unity government and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), they added, putting further pressure on a relationship where the government still needs UMNO but does not want to be seen as one that – for all intents and purposes – freed Najib.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan feels this issue affects the future of the unity government, given that the Barisan Nasional coalition UMNO leads holds 30 seats in parliament – crucial for the government’s supermajority.

“Zahid’s affidavit is part of a strategy to stave off accusations that he did not do his best in terms of Najib’s pardon,” he said, referring to how some UMNO members had accused their party president of not doing enough to secure Najib’s pardon.

“It will of course put pressure on the unity government to explain what really happened. Because the authenticity of the king’s addendum no doubt is there.”



In Mr Ahmad Zahid’s affidavit filed with the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Apr 9, the Deputy Prime Minister said he was shown a picture of the addendum order by Mr Tengku Zafrul.

According to Mr Ahmad Zahid, during a meeting at his house on Jan 30, Mr Tengku Zafrul informed him that the addendum order existed. This was a day after the Pardons Board meeting on Jan 29.

This was the meeting that produced the decision to slash Najib’s 12-year sentence to six years, a move that angered the nation but was ultimately acknowledged as a prerogative of the then-king.

“(Mr Tengku Zafrul) subsequently showed me a copy of the said Addendum Order on his phone which he personally photographed/scanned from an original copy as shown to him by (Malaysia’s 16th king),” Mr Ahmad Zahid stated in his affidavit.

“The contents of the addendum order expressly stated that (Najib) be allowed to serve the reduced sentence of his imprisonment under condition of ‘home arrest’, instead of the current prison confinement in the Kajang Prison.”

Mr Ahmad Zahid said the picture of the addendum order he saw had the royal seal on it, and that he believes it is “genuine” and part of the main order that reduced Najib’s sentence.

He went on to say that besides him and Mr Tengku Zafrul, other members of the government have seen the addendum order, and that Pahang Chief Minister Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail has also seen it and can “confirm the same”.

Mr Ahmad Zahid ended off by saying he did not have a copy of the addendum order for reasons of “confidentiality and propriety”, especially as the order had yet to be “executed or enforced”.

“I however confirm that the (addendum) is within the collective possession of the Respondents,” he said, referring to government institutions and ministers named in Najib’s application, including Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said, and Prisons Commissioner-General Nordin Muhamad.

“I am further verily informed that the Honourable Attorney General has an original or copy of the Addendum Order for his legal input on the same.”

Mr Ahmad Zahid did not state why Sultan Abdullah chose to show the addendum order to Mr Tengku Zafrul, nor why the latter decided to photograph or scan it.

But in a statement on Wednesday evening, Mr Tengku Zafrul said he had seen Mr Ahmad Zahid’s affidavit and asserted that it contained factual errors.

“I will be taking steps to obtain appropriate legal advice and seek to write to the High Court to ask for permission or leave to file an affidavit to correct certain factual errors contained in the affidavit in question,” Mr Tengku Zafrul said.

“I take no position in so far as the merits of the ongoing dispute is concerned but I merely wish to ensure that the factual record is properly reflected and recorded so that all parties and in particular the High Court is properly (apprised) of all material facts.”

Mr Tengku Zafrul said this will allow for a “just and fair decision” to be made in the interest of all parties concerned.

Later on Wednesday evening, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said it would bring Mr Tengku Zafrul’s comments to the attention of the court.



Mr Anwar’s office had previously said it would not be making any statement on how it intends to deal with Najib’s legal challenge, while Mr Saifuddin had said he has “not seen” any such order.

Senior government officials, who spoke earlier on condition of anonymity to CNA, acknowledged that Sultan Abdullah had issued a supplementary order with regards to the house arrest before he completed his five-year reign in end-January.

But the officials noted that the AGC had raised objections on the matter to the Anwar administration because the issue of house arrest for Najib was not discussed during the meeting on Jan 29 by the six-member Pardons Board. The officials declined to elaborate.

In any case, Najib’s latest legal challenge has pushed the Anwar administration into an awkward corner, say analysts, as a government challenge on the former premier’s bid for house arrest would be viewed as tantamount to challenging the unfettered role of the country’s constitutional monarchy.

Professor James Chin at the University of Tasmania said the whole issue felt “very strange” as he was unsure how a royal document of that stature, if it does indeed exist, could remain under wraps for so long.

“My suspicion is that the government wanted this to be pushed by the Najib camp, so it looks like they’re very reluctant to do it,” he said. “They can say that, ‘It’s really not us … We actually wanted to see Najib in jail.’”

If the existence of the addendum is proven, Prof Chin said it will be difficult for Mr Anwar to talk himself out of this issue as it involves his administration’s transparency with the public.

“If (Anwar went on to say that) he knew about the (addendum) order, why was he not transparent with the people of Malaysia?” Prof Chin asked.

Ultimately, Prof Chin believes Mr Ahmad Zahid had little choice but to sign the affidavit because Najib’s influence in UMNO remains “so strong”.

“If Najib comes out (of jail), it is very positive for UMNO because UMNO will get its number one warlord back,” he said, referring to how Najib as former UMNO chief before his downfall could unite the once-dominant party and more effectively conduct political lobbying and meet party leaders while on house arrest.

Despite that, independent analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani feels Mr Ahmad Zahid’s testimony will create a rift between himself and Mr Anwar as he is undermining the Prime Minister and unity government.

The affidavit could strengthen sentiments within UMNO that Mr Anwar and his Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) cannot be trusted if it is proven that he did not disclose the previous king’s addendum, Mr Asrul Hadi said.

But the analyst said Mr Ahmad Zahid could have felt secure in doing what he did, knowing he remains indispensable to Mr Anwar, amid the possibility of UMNO members calling for the party to leave the unity government.

UMNO currently holds 26 of the unity government’s 147 seats in Malaysia’s 222-seat parliament.

“I do not think UMNO will pull out from the unity government yet, but we may not see UMNO working with PKR beyond this term,” Mr Asrul Hadi said.

Prof Chin called it a “lose-lose proposition” for Mr Anwar and his Pakatan Harapan coalition as they had promised to rid the country of systemic corruption.

“Everybody wants Najib to pay for his sins, but now it looks like he is going to get away with it,” he said.