HOBART: Malaysians might not have imagined the day former prime minister Najib Razak would be whisked off to prison, as he was on Tuesday (Aug 23) afternoon after his guilty verdict in a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)-linked case was upheld.
Najib had failed in his final appeal in the Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest court, against his guilty verdict over the misappropriation of RM42 million (US$9.36 million) from SRC International, a former subsidiary of the government-linked company 1MDB.
Many took to social media to celebrate the news, which came four years after he was first charged. He is the first former prime minister in Malaysia to go to prison.
VERDICT CLEARS THE PATH FOR ISMAIL SABRI IN UMNO
The verdict has enormous implications. For one, it complicates things for Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and their preparations for the next general election (GE15).
The two main factions within UMNO – one led by Najib and party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi; the other indirectly led by incumbent Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob – have been fighting internally since last year. Mostly over when GE15 will be called and who the prime minister will be after the polls.
The verdict will strengthen considerably the hand of Ismail Sabri now that Najib is out the picture.
Najib could not be disqualified as a member of parliament until the appeal was complete. Part of the pressure Ismail Sabri was facing internally was to call for an early GE15, before this verdict was handed down.
If UMNO triumphed at an early GE15, it was always understood that Najib could try to edge his way back into the top political office, given his strong political backing and continued popular support.
Now, Ismail Sabri is free of his strongest challenger and will have a free hand in deciding the date and inserting more of his supporters as candidates. He is in the position he wants to be seen: The only UMNO candidate for prime minister.