By Nicholas Chung | Free Malaysia Today

Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Harun

Lawyers have questioned the fuss raised over Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Harun requesting the courts to consider allowing former prime minister Najib Razak to join the debate at Parliament last Thursday.

New Sin Yew said he did not find anything wrong with Azhar’s letter to the courts, adding that he does not think the official communication constitutes an infringement to the separation of powers.

He told FMT that it was common practice in criminal trials for the accused to sometimes request for the trial to be adjourned for various reasons, adding that proof would have to be produced to the courts.

“I don’t think there’s anything inherently objectionable about the speaker communicating with the High Court judge that the accused is due to speak in Parliament and to ask for the court’s indulgence to adjourn the trial for the day to facilitate the same.

“Let’s not lose objectivity here because of the personalities involved,” he said.

Amer Hamzah Arshad told FMT that the three branches of government – legislature, executive and judiciary – were equal, with not one subservient to the other.

As head of the Parliament, he said, Azhar holds a responsibility to the Dewan Rakyat to do that which is permissible to ensure that proceedings are able to proceed smoothly without unnecessary interruptions.

“As it is, there is no prohibition for any of the three branches of the government to communicate with each other in a professional manner.

“As an example, when Pakatan Harapan took power after the 2018 elections, Dr Mahathir Mohamad had called for a private meeting with the then-chief justice and the president of the Court of Appeal.

“Was that meeting an act of interference? Or was it merely a courtesy meeting between the heads of two branches of the government?” he asked.

Amer said a good example of unlawful interference by one branch of government in the affairs of another is the judicial crisis that happened in the 1980s.

He said Azhar had not tried to influence the outcome of the ongoing trial in his letter and added that it was the judge who had the final say in the end.

“It was merely a polite request to the trial judge to consider allowing Najib to attend that particular parliamentary session.

“At the end of the day, it was the trial judge who had the discretion and the final say. It was not a situation whether a directive was given to the trial judge.”

Azhar on Monday denied that he had instructed the courts to postpone the proceedings of Najib’s 1MDB case, saying he had only asked that consideration be given to Najib, who is Pekan MP.

Chang Lih Kang (PH-Tanjong Malim) had raised the issue in the lower house, asking why he had written to the judge asking for court proceedings to be postponed.

Najib also questioned the apparent double standard from opposition MPs on the matter, saying trials of PKR president Anwar Ibrahim had in the past been postponed so that he could attend the Dewan Rakyat.