PETALING JAYA: Revive the law ministry to spearhead institutional reforms, says a lawyer who is the co-chair of the Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee.
Andrew Khoo, who is also a human rights lawyer, said there used to be a law ministry but Dr Mahathir Mohamad reduced its status to that of a department in the Prime Minister’s Office when he first became prime minister in 1981.
“It is time to restore law and justice to its own standalone ministry again. Such a ministry could then look into institutional reforms, crime and punishment,” he told FMT.
Khoo also proposed that the prisons department be moved from the home ministry to the proposed law ministry to better handle issues concerning the department.
“We have to ask questions about our ideas of justice. Questions such as why are our prisons overcrowded, and if simply sending people to jail is the answer, especially with drug-related offences.
“And how well are we doing with reform and rehabilitation presently, and what is our rate of recidivism,” he said.
According to Khoo, the other institutional reforms needed were placing the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) under the purview of Parliament and subject to the protection of provisions of the Constitution.
He also called for a transparent appointment system for the top positions in these agencies where nominations can also come from the public for selection by MPs.
Separately, Khoo supported those who had criticised the government’s decision to enforce the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) Act next year.
He called for the government to revive an earlier draft of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) bill proposed in 2019.
“The current iteration (IPCC) is worse than a toothless tiger,” he said.
Last Tuesday, home minister Saifuddin Nasution Abdullah told reporters on his first official visit to Bukit Aman, that the IPCC Act will be enforced in June next year.
The IPCMC, which was meant to replace the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) to improve transparency and accountability in the police force, was first mooted in 2005, when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was prime minister but it received a lot of pushback, especially from the police.
The IPCMC Bill was eventually tabled in Parliament by the then Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in 2019. However, following the fall of the PH government, the IPCC Bill was introduced in its place in 2020.
The IPCC Bill – which critics describe as a watered-down version of the IPCMC Bill – became law in July this year.
On Thursday, the Malaysian Bar called for Putrajaya to amend the IPCC Act to incorporate provisions found in the IPCMC as the former in its current form failed to live up to expectations of a more transparent and better-regulated police force.