Najib had assumed that power would prevail over justice, which has so long been his experience and that of his ilk.
He forgot about the power of the people who have voted for the rule of law in Malaysia. Justice prevailed…. eventually and against very tough challenges.
The effort that it took to hold this man to account for this extremely straightforward case of abuse of power and theft – he set up a fund using borrowed public money and then treated it as his piggy bank – was staggering.
For months and years he employed every tactic of delay his lawyers could dream up, eventually collapsing into a courtroom farce as lawyers bobbed in and out of representing him (the last one having emerged from the public gallery to announce his new role on the final day of this years long process).
Meanwhile, he was able to maintain his status as a former PM, travelling with his cavalcade of motorcars and police escort to Parliament where he was bizarrely allowed to continue to represent his party whilst on prolonged appeal.
Such lassitude was a product of Malaysian deference to power that carried enormous risks and gave Najib advantages he readily seized in order to used his time and resources to politicise a clear criminal case.
Adopting the ‘Trumpian’ playbook the veteran politician leaned into his notoriety and poured resources into branding his accusers as biased operatives abusing the law to lock him up (something he himself has not hesitated to do to get his own opponents out of the way).
Coach loads of wailing women were bused to the court today to chorus his claims that somehow he had had an unfair trial and that his endless delays had been insufficient. He had sworn on the Koran in a Holy Mosque, berated on Facebook for months and years and criss crossed the country campaigning for his party, but mainly for his cause of ‘innocence’.
It didn’t match the facts as an exasperated bench of five Apex court judges ruled today. His defences had been conflicting and inconsistent they pointed out as they joined the High Court ruling and unanimous judgement of the Appeal Court in finding him guilty as charged.
Najib had sought both to blame everyone around him for the decisions he as the man in charge had made and to claim that the money had not come from SRC as demonstrated and admitted but was a gift of uncertain Saudi royal origin. It was either or, the Chief Justice pointed out, and neither was the truth.
In battling against that final judgement based on logic this former prime minister showed no hesitation in taking the very stability of his country to the brink, stirring up his followers with his lies and shamefully turning their ire against the judges and law enforcers tasked with the handling of this case.
Perhaps he was keeping an eye, together with his expensive international political strategists, on the developments in the United States where another former top dog has rallied his base against law enforcers, civil servants and officials tarred with accusations of being ‘the deep state’ for combating his wrong doing.
In the end, Najib’s overkill and the incompetence of his increasingly desperate lawyers worked against him, surprising everyone with the speed in which he landed in jail today as his trial collapsed around him.
He had only himself to blame thanks to his blatant attempts at ridiculous added delays in furtherance of his plan to postpone judgement day till after an election he hoped UMNO could win. UMNO, according to this plan, would then exert political power over the judges to get his cases dropped.
As chaos began to erupt during the course of Tuesday with outrageous tactic after outrageous tactic (the worst being the last minute leak and then doctoring of a draft of the judgement today to cause further instability and conflict) the Chief Justice put her foot down and brooked no further delays.
All the evidence had long since been before the court, given that Najib’s lawyers had formally withdrawn from giving oral submissions for which this week had been set aside. The judges had known this was the case since Friday. They had surveyed the written submissions over the previous weeks.
There was no reason to delay their conclusions further having evaluated the legal merits of the arguments put forward. Particularly, in the atmosphere of growing chaos brought sharply to and end by the clear and decisive judgement now brought down.
The consequences for Najib are extensive. His strategy to focus on delaying the judgement on SRC in the hope of seizing back control with an election win would have then led to the dropping of a whole raft of other charges of a far more complex but damning nature still proceeding through the courts.
Now, the ex-PM can look forward to days released from prison in order to attend his several future trials, for which if found guilty he can expect far greater prison sentences than that for SRC.
He can also look forward to the proceeding of trials involving his wife and partner in so much of his affairs as well has his Deputy, both entangled in their own corruption cases.
And, locked away, he will be even less able to keep a lid on that can of crawling worms all too ready to spill out from his decades of corruption. His eve of judgement prayer in the mosque took many minds back to similar claims of innocence surrounding a swathe of defence contracts and other swindles against the public purse, the latest being the shocking mess over the Boustead contract for naval ships.
Najib presided over that LCS scandal and his finger prints are over all the structure that allowed billions to go missing in exactly the same way that he presided and benefitted from 1MDB. These later truths are now starting to emerge.
The clanging of keys and the slamming of the jail door behind Najib tonight has brought one long saga to an end. However, it is also the beginning of so much more to be revealed.