Speed up institutional reforms, Bersih says after Guan Eng’s acquittal

KUALA LUMPUR: Bersih 2.0 today called on the government to speed up the process of separating the attorney-general’s (AG) roles as the government’s chief legal adviser and the public prosecutor as the person deciding on prosecutions, following the dropping of graft charges against Lim Guan Eng.

It also called for the expedition of the process of making the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) a fully independent body.

“Public concerns on the case stem from the suspicion of the case being politically motivated during Barisan Nasional’s rule before the 14th general election,” it said.

“With the sudden acquittal of Lim after Pakatan Harapan (PH) came to power, another concern arises whether the decision was made due to external interference, especially from the executive.”

In a statement, it said it shared the concern of many over the “sudden acquittal” of Lim, the finance minister. The concern, it added, was made even greater by the statement from MACC that it was “shocked” over the acquittal.

Bersih said although deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria had clarified that the decision was made by him as the head of the Appellate and Trial Division at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), it was troubling that there seemed to be a lack of coordination between the MACC and the AGC.

“While Bersih welcomes the statement of Hanafiah and it is a good starting point to separate prosecutorial powers from the AG, the case once again indicates the urgent need for an independent public prosecutor’s office to be established and separated from the AG’s office as soon as possible to clear public suspicion of the role of the AG, who acts as a legal adviser of the executive branch of the government, in influencing prosecution decision.”

Similarly, Bersih said, ensuring public confidence in the MACC as a truly independent body should not be delayed. “This can be made by making the anti-corruption body a constitutional body with transparent and credible appointment of its members. This would ensure the anti-corruption body is free from external interference and does not become a tool of political persecution against political enemies.”

Bersih said it had made these demands since the Bersih 4 rally in 2015 and noted that despite these two promises being included in the manifesto of PH, “we have not seen any action taken by the new government thus far to implement these crucial institutional reforms measures”.

Earlier this week, Lim was freed of the charge of using his public office to obtain gratification for himself and his wife by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem to convert agricultural land for residential purposes during a state executive council meeting on July 18, 2014.

He was also freed of the charge of using his position to obtain gratification by purchasing a bungalow from businesswoman Phang Li Koon at below its market value. Phang was freed of the charge of abetting him.