“The government’s failure to be transparent regarding the advice submitted to the pardons board indicates a disregard for the people’s right to know the truth,” election watchdog Bersih 2.0 said in a statement.
Anwar has said he made sure the pardon’s board received Najib’s application.
The group, which organised mass street protests against Najib while he was in power, said the reduced sentence was just the latest “reward” doled out by Anwar’s administration to “political elites”.
“This situation sends a strong signal that the people can no longer remain silent, as the trajectory for institutional and political reform in the country veers off course,” Bersih said.
“Bersih will not hesitate to mobilise the people to take to the streets, as this is the language best understood by those comfortably in power, regardless of the various excuses given.”
Najib’s lawyers on Wednesday said the former leader was “not totally happy” he did not secure a full pardon, adding that they had argued in their application he had not been given a fair trial.
His lead counsel, Shafee Abdullah, claimed there were numerous discrepancies over the entire course of Najib’s trial, and that those were sufficient grounds for his client to be acquitted and discharged.
“The pardon is about fair trial. It has got nothing to do with whether he admitted [guilt] or not,” Shafee told a news conference.
“Datuk Seri Najib should not in prison, not even for a day, because his constitutional right has been taken away,” he said, using the former premier’s honorifics.
Shafee said they were now waiting for the “right timing” to submit a fresh application for a full pardon.
Najib, 70, was jailed in 2022 after failing to overturn a corruption conviction involving 42 million ringgit in funds funnelled through SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
He denies all wrongdoing and faces at least three other trials linked to the scandal-tainted state fund.
Najib’s reduced sentence means he must be released no later than August 23, 2028, the board said on Friday. However, he could qualify for parole as early as the end of next year, according to provisions under the Prison Act.
Anwar on Monday urged the public to move on from the Najib case, saying the decision by Sultan Abdullah was guided by “compassion”.
“His majesty is what is described as a fountain of mercy,” Anwar said, adding that it was the king’s prerogative to decide whether to issue an explanation for the decision.
But criticism continues to strike his administration.
Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah said Anwar’s government had “lost its moral authority” in dealing with corruption, especially due to the “rippling effect” that the 1MDB scandal has had on Malaysians.
“Each Malaysian citizen took it as a personal betrayal of the power and trust entrusted to Najib as a prime minister, when he abused his power and pilfered from the nation’s coffers – monies that should have been used to develop Malaysia for the benefit of Malaysians,” Cheah said in a statement on Tuesday.
“While it is true that justice must be tempered with mercy, it is also true that mercy must not rob justice,” she added.
The decision also drove a wedge in already-fractious ties between parties in Anwar’s unity government.
Police on Monday questioned former MP Tony Pua of the influential Democratic Action Party (DAP), after complaints were filed over his social media posts calling Najib “King Klep” – short for kleptocrat – and for mocking the reduced fine by offering to be sent to jail for a year in exchange for 50 million ringgit.
The police reports were filed by the youth wing of erstwhile rivals Umno, which until recently had routinely painted DAP as communists bent on usurping the political power of the country’s ethnic Malay majority.
Najib’s political fortunes plummeted in 2018 when he and his then-ruling Umno party were booted out of power as public anger raged over the billions of dollars believed to have been siphoned out of 1MDB.
Police estimated the seized items were potentially valued at more than 1 billion ringgit.