By The Star

The clock is ticking for former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to save his Pekan parliamentary seat.

Although there is no time limit for Najib to seek a pardon from the King, he has less than two weeks to do so if he wants to avoid being disqualified as an MP.

He can “wipe the slate clean” and be a free man if he gets a royal pardon, said legal experts.

But the pardon will not affect his other ongoing cases and if he is convicted of any of them, he will have to undergo the process again.

Bar Council human rights committee co-chairman New Sin Yew said there is no time limit to seek a royal pardon, but “Prison Regulation 2000 states that it should be done as soon as practicable after conviction”.

“Najib has to do so within 14 days of his conviction, otherwise he will be disqualified as an MP under Article 48 of the Federal Constitution.

“If he does file a petition within the time frame, then he will only be disqualified if and when his petition is denied,” New said yesterday.

He said Najib is likely to seek a pardon from the King as his crimes were committed within the Federal Territories.

If the petition is rejected, Najib can still submit fresh applications, but only after serving some time behind bars.

“A second petition can only be made after a prisoner has served three years of his term from the date of conviction. Any subsequent petitions can only be made at two-year intervals,” New explained.

On Tuesday, Najib became the first former Prime Minister in the country’s history to be sent to prison after the Federal Court dismissed his final appeal.

He had been sentenced to 12 years in jail and a total fine of RM210mil by the Kuala Lumpur High Court in 2020 after being found guilty of seven charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering, and abuse of position in the RM42mil SRC International case. Former Malaysian Bar President Salim Bashir said Najib could petition for a royal pardon either through the Pardons Board in Putrajaya or directly to the King.

“If he petitions the Pardons Board, the board will have to convene to deliberate on the matter.

“The board will then make its recommendation to the King. The entire process may take some time,” he said.

Alternatively, he said, Najib could petition the King directly, as was done by PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was granted a “free pardon” with regard to his sodomy conviction.

“The King himself has the power to grant a pardon. This power is derived under the Constitution and is absolute and non-justiciable,” he added.

He said Najib would likely seek a “free pardon” from the King instead of just clemency.

“With a free pardon, a person is given a clean slate and can contest elections.

“This was why Anwar could contest in the Port Dickson by-election,” said Salim.

He said the King could also commute Najib’s 12-year prison sentence to a lesser period.

“The problem with this is that Najib will still have to spend time in jail. He will lose his MP seat while being disqualified from contesting in the general election,” he said.

Under Article 48(1)(e) of the Federal Constitution, a person is disqualified as an MP if convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than RM2,000 and has not received a free pardon.

Lawyer Nizam Bashir said a petition for a royal pardon could be made by Najib himself, by a family member, or through his lawyers.

“In his case, the petition will be submitted to the secretariat of the Federal Territories Pardons Board, which comes under the Legal Affairs Division in the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya,” he added.

He pointed out that in previous high-profile cases, those seeking a royal pardon still spent some time serving their prison sentences before being freed.

Najib can also opt to file for a review of the Federal Court’s decision, but that will take time as he has to obtain leave to apply for a review.