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Commotion mars start of high profile court case

  • The fact Najib was hauled to the court to face corruption charges reflects the determination of the PH government to uphold the rule of law principle. Photo courtesy: Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 (Bernama) -- If the 14th General Election was the "father of all elections", then Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's corruption trial is set to be the "mother of all court cases".

The fact that the former prime minister himself was dragged to court to face corruption charges reflects the determination of the Pakatan Harapan government to uphold the much-touted rule of law principle regardless of a person's rank or status.

It was, however, unfortunate that Najib's supporters and their rowdy behaviour attempted to discredit the government's serious efforts to stamp out corruption in this country.

While the court proceedings were unfolding inside the courtroom yesterday, Najib loyalists chanted slogans and even caused a commotion outside, much to the annoyance of journalists whose work was disrupted.

The Kuala Lumpur Court Complex at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim (formerly Jalan Duta), here was a hive of activity yesterday morning -- after all, it was no ordinary case as it was the first time in the history of this country that a former prime minister was in court to face graft charges.

Traffic police were stationed at 30 to 50 metres from the intersection of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim with Jalan Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah up to the junction of the road leading to the court complex.

Dozens of uniformed policemen stood guard outside and inside the court complex, monitoring the cars driving in and out, as well as the people entering the lifts and heading to various parts of the complex.

High profile case

Najib first appeared at the Sessions Court and later at the High Court where he pleaded not guilty to three charges of Criminal Breach of Trust and one count of abuse of power over funds totalling RM42 million belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

A total of 19 days in February and March 2019 have been tentatively set for the trial by Judge Datuk Mohd Sofian Abd Razak. He allowed Najib bail of RM1 million and ordered him to surrender his two travel documents to the court.

The court also imposed an interim gag order prohibiting the media from reporting the public discussion on the merits of the case.

Also present at the court were Najib's children Nooryana Najwa, Norashman and Mohd Nazifuddin, as well as his son-in-law Daniyar Kessibayev. His wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was seen at the court complex towards the end of the proceedings.

Najib's seven-member defence team is led by Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah while Attorney-General Tommy Thomas is leading the 12-member prosecution team.

A case as high profile as this is bound to attract the attention of the media, both local and international. In fact, an estimated 300 local and foreign journalists had turned up to cover the case, many of them having camped outside the court complex since dawn yesterday.

The international press included journalists from Associated Press (AP) headquartered in New York; Agence France-Presse (AFP), Paris; Channel News Asia (CNA), Singapura; European Pressphoto Agency; The Guardian (United Kingdom); Al Jazeera (Qatar) and CCTV (China).

Apparently, some of the pressmen only landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport the night before and had rushed to the court early yesterday morning.

When Najib appeared at the court complex at 8.20 a.m. he was of course subjected to the media frenzy as hordes of news and television cameramen rushed forward to record every frame of the historic moment.

Dressed smartly in a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and red tie, the former premier smiled at the media as he walked into the courthouse amid tight security.

Questions arose in social media why Najib was not handcuffed nor dressed in the infamous bright orange lock-up attire. It was obvious the authorities decided to accord him some semblance of dignity in view of the high office he held previously and the fact that he was innocent until proven guilty in court. And, furthermore, Najib was not remanded, hence the reason he was not made to don the uniform.

Supporters turn unruly

About 150 hardcore supporters of the former Umno president were also there on-site, carrying placards and chanting slogans like "Hidup Najib" in support of their beloved ex-leader and the man they hold in high esteem. Their numbers may not have been big but they did make their presence felt!

It was unfortunate that some of the supporters showed disrespect to the court by exhibiting unruly behaviour and disrupting the duties of the media practitioners.

The Attorney-General had scheduled a press conference when the court proceedings concluded but for unknown reasons, Thomas only made his appearance some two hours later.

The court lobby, which was the venue for the PC, was packed with journalists and members of the public who had waited patiently for Thomas to turn up.

When Thomas started speaking in English, a group of people who were obviously Najib's supporters, started heckling him by shouting "Melayulah woi" and "Hidup Melayu". Someone mocked at him, shouting "Duduk Malaysia tapi tak reti cakap Bahasa Malaysia" ("You live in Malaysia but can't speak Bahasa Malaysia").

To be frank, the media was not concerned about the language medium used by Thomas as long as they could gather the relevant information. That was all that mattered to them.

When the crowd became more boisterous and uncontrollable, Thomas was forced to cancel his press conference while the police deployed its Special Action Unit to avert any untoward incidents.

Some stubborn supporters were on the verge of being detained but were let off at the discretion of the police. This writer also heard some of the more disgruntled ones muttering that they have the right to freedom of expression.

The Attorney-General eventually met the press at another location within the court complex and the police made sure that only those holding media passes were allowed entry.

Among Najib's supporters who turned up to give him their moral support were "big names" like former Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar, Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri and newly-elected Umno Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.

Kelantan's Tumpat division Umno Youth head Rosdi Razali was also there. He told this writer that he and about 100 party members from various divisions in Kelantan had travelled to Kuala Lumpur the night before in a convoy of cars.

They all wore T-shirts displaying the slogan "Maruah Melayu" (Malay Dignity) to show their solidarity to Najib.

Another supporter Mohd Izwan Zulkifli said he decided to turn up because he felt that Najib was being "persecuted" and that all the accusations levelled at him were "politically motivated and done out of vengeance".

Another supporter from Taman Seri Gombak, Selangor, who only wanted to be identified as Kumar, said all the issues concerning Najib could have been resolved amicably through discussions, considering that he has been in politics for the last 40 years and has contributed to the development of this nation.

 

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