Frankly Speaking: Lift the gag order

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 9, 2018 - July 15, 2018.
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With a new government and attorney-general in place, the battle with Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the 1MDB and SRC International scandal has now shifted to the courts. The drama and rhetoric that ensued after Najib was slapped with four charges on July 4 is only the start of much more to come.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas was heckled by a group of Najib supporters at the court complex. This is unacceptable. The police and court officials should not have allowed it to happen and must ensure it does not recur.

But set aside the noise, the fact that charges have finally been filed against Najib is in itself an achievement, considering that this saga has dragged on for three years.

It was exactly three years ago in July 2015 that Najib sacked the then Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail just as charges were about to be brought against him. Investigations were stopped and investigators were harassed and transferred. Najib also sacked his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, as well as Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal from the Cabinet and Umno.

His government also suspended The Edge weekly and The Edge Financial Daily — a suspension that was subsequently overturned by the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

It is therefore, our hope that the learned judge who imposed an interim gag order on any discussion about the charges against Najib, as requested by his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, will reverse his decision.

A trial that is heard by a judge, unlike that by a jury, which Malaysia no longer practises, is unlikely to be influenced by any public discussion. The right of Malaysians to talk among ourselves about such a major event that affects us all is a fundamental right that should not be denied.

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