KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today promised the High Court that he will not seek any more postponements in his client Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial if it is merely out of convenience.

Shafee instead assured the High Court that any postponements sought will only be if there are legal reasons to do so.

Past 4pm today, Shafee had requested a short 10 minute break while he was cross-examining 39th prosecution witness Cheah Tek Kuang, explaining that he realised he had not taken his medicine and asked to continue the 1MDB trial tomorrow.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram then suggested that the 1MDB trial could then resume until 5.30pm after the short break, but Shafee said he had been presenting arguments “non-stop” in another court earlier today and insisted on continuing the trial tomorrow.

When High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah asked if he must take the medicine then, Shafee said he was supposed to take it at 11am but had forgotten, and continued to say he prefers to have the trial resume tomorrow.

“The reason is this, I have to go down to the car to get the medicine,” he said, adding that he was also unsure if the medicine is in the car and that he could carry on if there was no other choice but preferred not to skip medication.

Shafee said he would take at most another 45 minutes to complete his cross-examination of Cheah and promised that the 1MDB trial could start at 9.30am tomorrow.

Hearing this, the judge finally agreed, and checked to ensure that Shafee would have no problem attending the 1MDB trial.

Shafee then pointed to a hearing of Najib’s bid to be allowed to attend Parliament as an MP despite his prisoner status, noting that he has asked for the court hearing before High Court judge Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md. Shahid to be held at 8.30am tomorrow.

While expecting the Attorney General’s Chambers to say that Najib’s lawsuit to attend Parliament has become academic due to the dissolution of Parliament yesterday, Shafee said he will argue the reverse and assured that he would not take long there and would then come attend the 1MDB trial.

This file photograph shows Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram arriving at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, September 27, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Sequerah pointed out that Sri Ram had earlier raised concern about Najib’s lawyers’ repeated reservation or postponing of cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, with Shafee then immediately jumping in to claim that the 1MDB trial had been “unnecessarily given” a very fast trajectory as he is handling other court cases where some clients are incarcerated and their trials have not even started.

While Sequerah noted that the 1MDB trial had started in 2018, Shafee continued to argue by saying he had a client today whose case goes back to 1997 and that he had told the judge in that case that he too could no longer tolerate delay to that case.

Sequerah then pointed out that he had also told Shafee’s colleague Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed that he is competent enough to conduct cross-examination of prosecution witnesses in the 1MDB trial in Shafee’s absence.

But Shafee insisted that he should be the one to personally handle cross-examination of some witnesses as Najib would otherwise be unhappy.

“Let me say this, I’m the only counsel appointed by my client, but I got a team that assists me, my client won’t be happy if I’m going to leave it to other counsel,” he said, while also saying that this was not due to his team of lawyers being incompetent.

The judge then remarked: “Also your client will want this to see a rapid conclusion as well.”

Shafee then replied: “Of course, but Yang Arif would understand, and my client has got so many things thrown at him and we are trying to ward it off as best as we can.”

When the judge continued to say that there should be no more reserving of cross-examination in the future and that Wan Aizuddin could step in if necessary to conduct the cross-examination, Shafee instead indicated he may still seek to postpone cross-examination if there are legal reasons to do so.

“I will inform Yang Arif, and I promise you one thing, the reserving of cross-examination will only be asked from Yang Arif if it is legally important under the criminal procedure code, I won’t ask for it because of convenience. No,” he said.

The judge pointed out that the prosecution also has difficulty in arranging for new prosecution witnesses to be called to testify in court, due to the other existing prosecution witnesses that were waiting to be cross-examined by Najib’s lawyers, adding: “So the point is perhaps you need to minimise, eliminate the habit of reserving cross-examination.”

Shafee then replied: “Of course, I got my impediment, my learned friend would have some impediment, but we don’t make mention of this, because everybody has got some impediment. But as I said, we are not going to ask for adjournment for convenience, only for some legal reasons.”

The judge then ended the matter by saying: “So we leave it at that until tomorrow morning.”

The 1MDB trial will resume tomorrow morning.

While other lawyers from Najib’s legal team do carry out cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, Shafee would sometimes carry out parts of the cross-examination of witnesses.

This had led to some disruptions in the 1MDB trial due to the need to wait for Shafee to be available, such as last Thursday when the trial could not go on as Shafee was on a four-day medical leave and Cheah was scheduled to be cross-examined by him.

The morning session of the 1MDB trial today also had to end earlier after the 40th prosecution witness and former AmInvestment Bank managing director Kok Tuck Cheong had read out his witness statement, as Shafee was the one who was supposed to cross-examine him but was engaged in another court case before another High Court judge.