FMT LETTER, From P Dev Anand Pillai, via e-mail
There have been calls from certain quarters that the biggest stumbling block in the path of the current Barisan Nasional federal government is Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, the Attorney General and that he should be removed.
Such an act is easier said than done. Those who think that he is the stumbling block should also note that he is no ordinary person, he is the Attorney General, and thus the most powerful civil servant in the country.
Removing him will be akin to moving a mountain from its position. Those who have called for such an action to take place must know that as the Attorney General he is the advisor that the government relies on when it comes to issues of the law and the constitution but ultimately the decision lies in his bosses who happen to the the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.
As the Attorney General he too has to take a back seat after his advise has been given because the decider is not him.
He may call the shots when it comes to prosecution as Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution allows him the sole discretion to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceeding for any offence except that of the Syariah Court, native court or a court martial.
Further his position is akin to a Judge of the Federal Court and he may be so appointed to that position if the need arises. Therefore to simply dismiss an Attorney General is easier said than done.
The Attorney General may still serve the next government that takes office as he is a civil servant and he is duty bound to serve the incoming government be it BN or Pakatan Rakyat. He can only be removed from office if there is a gross misconduct on his part just like what a Federal Court judge is subject to when it comes to the issue of removal.
Though he may have been the most controversial Attorney General in recent times but due to the fact that these recent times are very interesting times, his position has become even more cemented.
The simple reason being, he is privy to the investigations on all high profile cases that have taken place since the time he was involved in first sodomy trials of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim during the start of the awakening in 1997/1998. Dismissing him just like that is not going to be easy.
He may have advised the government to take certain actions the way it has been done for purposes which the decision makers themselves may only know. He may have acted and directed his subordinates in a certain way because he may have had to make certain decisions to save certain people which if he had not done may have affected the stability of the federal government.
Yes, it is agreeable that now after the emergence of the alternative media and the people being exposed to the other side of the coin have become more politically educated and aware of what goes around them and how it affects their view and confidence in our justice system in the country. But by just removing the Attorney General, it is not going to make a great difference.
Even if the next person is appointed, he is going to inherit the same system and the working ethics like what the current person is going through. The entire system has to change where the Attorney General becomes answerable to Parliament due to his position as the chief decider of prosecutions in this nation, he may have to also answer queries in Parliament as to why such a prosecution is necessary or why it was not instituted.
We have all got to note that not only the judiciary was robbed of its independence in 1988, the Office of the Attorney General too became a tool for the schemers in the corridors of power to use against their political opponents.
What better way is there to silence an opponent than to charge him in court with some charge which will have him occupied till there is time to clean up the mess that the opponent had found out about?
We see the similar pattern till today with Rafizi Ramli being charged for letting the public know what they ought to know as tax payers. For the Office of the Attorney General to reform we would need a change of government in Putrajaya and that as far as we see today is still a dream which may or may not come through.
AG Patail may have been instrumental in most of our show case prosecutions which did not see the outcome that the long suffering public would have wanted but to assume that he is the one that orchestrates the result is unfair.
We badly need a change in the federal government, we have seen changes in the state governments but yet there seems to be hiccups in administration because certain employees of state are actually federal civil servants seconded to the respective states as officers in charge of important portfolios.
That is the reason why we saw the inability of the Pakatan government to function effectively in Perak because of the Office of the State Secretary and the Legal Advisers were taking their orders from Putrajaya.
AG Patail may have been instrumental and may have been involved in a lot of the controversial prosecutions but the question is; is he in it alone? Aren’t the actual culprits the politicians who walk the corridors of power in Putrajaya?
Our system has been allowed to rot to an extent that it may soon become incapable of change, our police force has been turned into a political mafia protecting the ruling elite and the final arbitrators of policies that affect the people, our military seems to also play politics then to stay neutral, we don’t need to mention about our judiciary though it seems to be showing some courage at the High Court level but being independent as how it was before is still not within reach.
The others like the Malaysian Anti -Corruption Commission, the Election Commission, the Immigration, the Customs and Excise and almost all the federal agencies need a revamp and a new lease of life. That will only happen if we, the people decide smartly in the coming general elections. Blaming AG Patail alone is not enough.