Press Statement
The new Attorney-General must be independent of party politics
13 May 2018

Lawyers for Liberty notes the impending appointment of the new Attorney-General (AG) and wishes to remind the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government that the AG must transcend party politics.

Although we have pointed out previously that the AG is a political appointee, the critical reform of separating the post of the AG from his responsibilities as the Public Prosecutor has not been accomplished yet. As such, it is critical that the person appointed must be able to carry out his or her duties independently – and by extension, the person cannot be bound by a party position or membership.

While we have excellent working relationships with many lawyers who are party leaders or elected representatives of PH who are qualified for the role of AG, their party background however suggests that they are better suited for the role of Minister of Law.

We recall that former AG Apandi Ali previously contested as an Umno candidate in the 1990 General Election, and his independence was severely questioned upon his appointment to the office. That he further went on to exonerate Najib Razak from any wrongdoing under 1MDB merely highlights the danger of appointing those with a party background to the role of AG.

It is crucial that offenders on either side of the political divide must be taken to task for their wrongdoings, and the new AG must be able to act independently and command public confidence and perception in his or her ability to do so.

We call upon the PH government to recognise that in this transition period, it is critical for public trust in the AG’s post be restored, given the way Apandi Ali and the previous AGs have abused their powers. Until reforms have been completed, the AG must be a person with full public confidence and independence to carry out his or her role.

Indeed, we note the many prominent former judges and senior lawyers who have remained active either in civil society or in their own individual capacities, all of whom would be more suitable to be appointed as AG as they would not be bound by political affiliations.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty