The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) strongly demands the separation of the public prosecution function from the attorney general before the next general election to remove any suspicion of political interference in cases involving politicians.
Whatever the merits or outcome of each case, public confidence in the institutions that administer justice, including the courts and the prosecution office, will continue to be shaken.
The public sentiment on the discharge not amounting to acquittal of Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim due to a request by the deputy public prosecutor on 23 September shows the necessity of having the prosecution office independent from the attorney general, who is a political appointee.
On the same day, the acquittal of Umno president Zahid Hamidi by the High Court of all corruption charges in the VLN [foreign visa system] case has also put the spotlight on the attorney general, ie whether he would appeal the court’s decision.
We should be reminded about the principle that “justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”. The public prosecutor, who has a key role to assist the judiciary in the administration of criminal justice, should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen as independent, impartial and beyond political interference. This can only be done by separating the public prosecutor’s role from the politically appointed attorney general.
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It is reported that the government has undertaken a study on the implications of the separation of powers between the attorney general and the public prosecutor, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. Bersih urges the government to complete the study and execute the reform without delay.
Bersih also urges the government to set up a parliamentary special select committee on attorney general reform to involve private members from all blocs in the reform agenda.
The precedents – the Special Select Committee on the Constitution (Ammendment) Bill (No. 3) 2022 and the Provision to Prohibit Party Hopping for Members of the House of Representatives and the Special Select Committee on the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 – have shown the advantages of involving the private members in policy formulation, including successfully achieving consensus between governing and opposition blocs, garnering sufficient support to pass even constitutional amendments, and strengthening the law by bringing in the private members’ input.
Restoring the confidence of the public prosecution office and the judiciary should be the top priority of all political parties and should be supported by all parties. – Bersih
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