Reform the Attorney-General’s role and make him accountable to Parliament
27 January 2016
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the actions of Attorney-General Apandi Ali in clearing Prime Minister Najib Razak from any criminal wrongdoing regarding the RM2.6 billion that were channeled into the Prime Minister’s bank accounts and SRC International Sdn Bhd which had taken a RM4 billion loan from the Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP).
Such questionable decisions predictably bring further disrepute on to his office and further enhance public perception that the A-G gives preferential treatment to those from or affiliated with the government while selectively prosecuting the government’s political adversaries and dissidents.
These double standards are unsurprising as the problem stems from the A-G’s dual role in Malaysia as both the legal adviser to the government and as Public Prosecutor. The perception against Apandi’s actions in clearing the Prime Minister is made worse as he was appointed to the job after the Prime Minister suddenly removed his predecessor, Abdul Gani Patail, under controversial circumstances.
The Federal Constitution provides the A-G the sole authority to institute, conduct or discontinue any criminal proceedings in Malaysia. The judiciary has unfortunately refused to review the A-G’s discretion which has resulted in him having virtually absolute and limitless discretion.
The absence of any possibility of review by the judiciary, accountability to Parliament or even any obligation to consult other parties means that there are no measures of accountability in place to act as a check and balance on the A-G’s powers.
This is in stark contrast to several developed Commonwealth nations, where either by statute or by convention, the A-G has ceased to exercise prosecution powers; such powers are vested in the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who acts independently from inappropriate political influence. In England and Wales, Canada, and Australia, both the A-G and the DPP are answerable to Parliament for their actions and decisions. The two offices of the A-G and DPP are generally considered independent of one another.
It cannot be over emphasised that the A-G does not just represent the government of the day. He also represents the State and the community at large as guardian of the public interests, justice and rule of law. This is however not possible where the A-G faces a conflict of interests in making prosecutorial decisions against members of the government.
Lawyers for Liberty therefore calls on all stakeholders to initiate serious reform of the A-G’s role, in particular, to make him accountable to Parliament and to transfer the prosecutorial powers to a truly independent and professional Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in order to facilitate greater transparency and accountability and to bring Malaysia in line with other developed nations.
Lawyers for Liberty
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