Law Politics

Anwar’s last hope is a pardon from the Agong, but do these things come easy? We check.

On 14 December, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal asking the Federal Court (most powerfuuh court in Malaysia) to overturn the Court of Appeal’s ruling on his sodomy conviction was rejected. This is his SECOND time appealing, after his first bid was also rejected last year on 10 Feb. [For those who want to refresh their memories on the sodomy case, here is a timeline.] As a result of the appeal being rejected, Anwar would have go back to jail and finish serving his five-year sentence.


Later, Anwar told reporters that he would discuss his next course of action with his lawyers. “It is not the end of the road,” he announced. Basically he pulled an Arnold Schwarzenegger


And he will. Image from

So can he still do anything to change his fate? What super epic master plan does he have up his sleeve (other than his arms)?


Erm… well, he can… ask the Agong for a royal pardon?


Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan succeeded Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah of Kedah on 13 Dec

One day before the Federal Court made its decision, PKR’s Vice President Rafizi Ramli thought of a way to help Anwar, which is to appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a royal pardon.

“If the Yang di-Pertuan Agong gives his blessing, Datuk Seri Anwar can be freed within two days from the GE14 polling date.” – Rafizi, Malay Mail

What is a royal pardon? In simple terms, it is when the Agong pardons convicts of their crimes. A royal pardon is a convict’s last hope for saving themselves (especially for those on death row) when the courts completely tutup mata, telinga, mulut, hidung, and don’t want to layan their appeals.


Not sure if Desa Damansara condo value went up or down after that

Under Article 42(1) of the Federal Constitution (the highest law in Malaysia), the Agong has the power to grant pardons to convicts for ANY and ALL offences committed in the Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya). Whereas the Sultan or Yang di-Pertua Negeri of a state has power to grant pardons for any and all offences committed IN his state.

As for Anwar’s case, it was testified that the act happened at Desa Damansara condominium which has a KL address, therefore the pardoning would be granted by the Agong. Currently the reigning Agong is Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan.

BUT how easy is it to get a royal pardon?


Surprisingly, it’s easy to apply for a pardon, but…

it’s very lengthy process! 🙁 You might actually be out of jail before you actually get it or by the time the Agong even considers your case.


Anwar’s wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah and their daughters submit an appeal for a royal pardon to a palace official at Istana Negara. Image from Malay Mail

Before we go on, we must mention that Anwar had asked for royal pardon once in 2015, unfortunately it was rejected as well.

The processes and eligibility for a royal pardon is confusing. We assumed there would be a lot of red tape and bureaucracy when it comes to matters concerning the royal rulers, however we learnt there are NO FIXED regulations regarding the process, according to Gurdial Singh Nijar, Professor at the Law Faculty, University of Malaya. It is not stated as to who can apply, nor is the form of the petition prescribed.

As with Anwar’s case, his wife and daughters submitted a petition on his behalf to a palace official at Istana Negara. There is no time limit for submitting a petition, and after receiving it, there is no deadline for the Agong to make a decision either. Even after a petition has been filed, the Agong cannot be compelled to get the Pardons Board to meet or to make a decision, said Constitutional law expert Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim.

“The process of the Pardons Board is extremely long, it may even take longer than five years as it is not an easy process, as it requires reports from various parties such as the court, advice of the Attorney-General before the King could make a decision. In some circumstances, the sentence had been served when the pardon process was still in progress.” – Associate Prof. Dr. Ahmad Marthada Mohamed, Law, Government and International Studies Dean, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Malay Mail


As you can see… ANYONE, any convict, can apply for a royal pardon, for ANY and ALL crimes committed, no matter what their sentence is. (BTW, the ‘crimes’ and ‘sentences’ for these Lego men are totally made up and have NO legal basis whatsoever).

Following that, Article 42(5) of the Constitution states that a Pardons Board (each state has its own, plus the Federal Territories has one) must be set up. It comprises of the Attorney-General (or his representative), Chief Minister of the state and three other members to be appointed by the Agong. The Agong will then preside over the Board.

The Board is supposed to consider the written opinion of the Attorney-General before coming to a decision. It is the Research Division of the A-G’s Chambers that prepares and delivers this written opinion to the Board, which then advises the Agong. Although the function of the Pardons Board is to advise the King, His Majesty is not bound to decide based on their conclusion.


For some cases, it’s literally like this

Basically, there are NO guidelines as to what that the Agong must take into account… His Majesty can look at other factors which courts are not allowed to (coz courts are bound by the law of evidence) – such as claims of innocence and injustice, and public policy. In other words, the Agong has to decide based on conscience and thorough consideration, without being influenced by anyone.

The Agong can grant a full pardon, commute a death sentence to life imprisonment, shorten a jail sentence, or delay the execution of a sentence.

At the end of the day, the Agong doesn’t need to provide reasons for his decision, and it is the FINAL say! It cannot be challenged in court. Best of all, when the Agong gives a full pardon, it removes all legal punishment for the offence, including any disqualifications, and totally wipes the slate clean!!

So if Anwar does receive a pardon, he can straightaway go back into politics. He doesn’t have to be suspended for five years according to Malaysian election law! [P/S: Malaysian election law states that any person who is imprisoned for not more than two years or fined RM5,000 is forbidden from running for office for five years after release.] Anwar would be able to remain as Permatang Pauh MP and Opposition leader. He could still have a shot at being PM!

But…. what what are his chances like?


Few royal pardons have been granted, even though anyone can apply


David Wang, formerly on death row, was granted a pardon and now counsels drug addicts at a rehabilitation centre. Image from The Star

Granting a pardon “is not a normal, administrative decision,” noted a spokesman from the Selangor Pardons Board secretariat in The Star. “It is at the mercy of the Sultan. You can say it is like a bonus.”

Senior criminal lawyer Datuk Jagjit Singh concurs, saying only 10% of his clients who petitioned for a pardon got it. One of them was former Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Mokhtar Hashim, who was pardoned for the 1982 murder of Gemencheh assemblyman Datuk Mohd Taha Talib. Another client was not so lucky…he was notorious gangster Botak Chin, whose petition was rejected.

Out of 829 death row prisoners, 95 were pardoned between 2010 to 2016, revealed Deputy PM Zahid Hamidi. But for more specific cases, let’s look at some of the people who received pardon in the past – you might recognize some names:

1. Lim Kit Siang – Yep!! The DAP Parliamentary leader was once in the same boat as Anwar in that he needed a pardon. Kit Siang’s election as MP for Bandar Melaka in 1969 was voided due to an election offence. He was allowed to keep his seat after receiving a pardon from the Agong.

2. Datuk Seri Harun Idris – The former Selangor Mentri Besar was found guilty of several charges of corruption between 1975-77. He was sentenced to six years, but was pardoned by the Agong and released after spending three years in prison.

3. Royals themselves – Even members of the royal family had found themselves in need of pardoning. One was the current Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor who was convicted of shooting dead a man in a nightclub in the 80s, but was quickly pardoned. Similarly, Sultan Ibrahim’s father, Sultan Iskandar was charged for manslaughter but was pardoned by his father (Sultan Ibrahim’s grandfather) Sultan Ismail.


Lorraine Cohen and son Aaron in court in Penang. Image from

4. A juvenile – Karpal Singh was remembered as a staunch advocate against the death penalty. He successfully petitioned for a pardon for a 14-year-old who got the death sentence for possessing a firearm under the ISA. Karpal is alleged to have told the Agong that the boy’s death would be “politically explosive”!

5. Foreigners – Filipino woman Jacqueline Quiamno was convicted for smuggling drugs at KLIA, then pardoned by the Sultan of Selangor following requests from the Philippine Embassy and her family. New Zealanders Lorraine Cohen (death sentence) and her son Aaron (life imprisonment) received royal pardons and were freed after spending 11 years in prison for drug trafficking.


Perhaps the best time to hope for a pardon is on the Agong or Sultan’s birthday


Sultan Ibrahim of Johor pardoned several people on his coronation day. Image from Malay Mail

If anything, we’ve noticed that maybe the best time to hope for a royal pardon is on the Agong or Sultan’s birthdays (or coronation day). Of course, this isn’t a given, but the royals sometimes do that. For example, Sultan Ibrahim of Johor – who received a pardon himself – has gone on to show benevolence when it came to granting pardons. He commuted 11 death row convicts’ sentences to life imprisonment, while 13 others were pardoned and released from prison on his coronation day.

Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah of Terengganu had also commuted someone’s death sentence to life imprisonment instead on his birthday. Two weeks later, the Sultan passed away and the prisoner remembers gratefully how his life was spared: “I thought the person who died should have been me, not the Sultan.”

And guess what?? Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan… our current reigning monarch, had in fact granted royal pardons before! In conjunction with his 46th birthday, he pardoned seven prisoners on death row. Errr…however, it should be mentioned that the Kelantan Pardons Board had received 37 cases, but only these seven were pardoned la.

Again, we should note that just because it’s their birthday, we cannot assume the Agong or Sultan will pardon everyone who appeals. As for Anwar, this would be his best chance for freedom (if he actually makes an appeal).

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