Responding to Gobind Singh's question, Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz says any practicing lawyer can be empowered to prosecute the AG.
KUALA LUMPUR: Any practicing lawyer can be given the powers of a public prosecutor to charge the attorney-general if there is a criminal or corruption case involving the latter as an individual, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz.
“If something happens that involves the AG as an individual… we have other prosecutors who can also prosecute,” he told Parliament.
“For sure he should not be charged by those who work under him because it would be hard for a subordinate to charge his superior. However, the Federal Constitution allows for a fiat to be given to a practicing lawyer when a case involves the AG himself,” he added.
Nazri was responding to a question from Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, who asked whether the government was ready to amend the Federal Constitution to give powers to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and other agencies to prosecute a corruption offence or other criminal offences.
Currently, the power to do so is vested in the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
The minister said the government presently does not plan to give MACC prosecution powers as a system of “check and balance” is required.
“In any country, the powers to make prosecutions are placed in the hands of the prosecutors who are independent from the investigation body,” he said.
Gobind asked if absolute power is given to the AG, “then the question is: what happens when we can show that the AG himself really does not have independence of mind? Like you said earlier, a man cannot be his own judge in his own court.”
“When we have allegations against the AG himself. Whether it is true or not is another issue, what happens when we have MACC itself saying the AG blocks certain cases and takes no action because AG does not want to charge,” he said.
[MACC Deputy Commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull was recently quoted as saying that the AG closed certain cases which MACC thought was valid.]
Decisions can be reviewed
Gobind also talked about the allegation of former Kuala Lumpur CID chief Mat Zain Ibrahim, who claimed that the AG dropped a RM40 million corruption case against former Malacca Chief Minister Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik in exchange for him stepping down from all government and party positions.
“In other modern countries, there is decentralisation. My question is, how can we, as a progressive country have a system that has independence of mind in our prosecutions?”
In response, Nazri said all decisions by the MACC or the AG’s Chambers not to prosecute can be reviewed by an independent Operations Review Panel, which is empowered to recommend cases to be reopened.
There have been numerous calls by civil societies, including a Royal Commission of Inquiry, for MACC to be given prosecution powers over the past years following accusations that the AG was selective in its prosecutions and was not independent.
MACC has also repeatedly shifted the blame to the prosecutors whenever parties asked why certain cases have not made it to court.
Section 376(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code states: “The Public Prosecutor may appoint fit and proper persons to be Deputy Public Prosecutors who shall be under the general control and direction of the Public Prosecutor and may exercise all or any of the rights or powers vested in or exercisable by the Public Prosecutor by or under this Code or any other written law except any rights or powers express to be exercisable by the Public Prosecutor personally and he may designate any of the Deputy Public Prosecutors as Senior Deputy Public Prosecutors.”