AG’s credibility at stake over Guan Eng case

Civil society demands that the Attorney-General’s Chambers provide a cogent explanation for the decision to drop the corruption charges against Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng. The Malaysian people voted for a new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government hoping for the reinstatement of a truly independent judicial system, not one that is skewed to protect the government in power.

The PH government must be seen as more principled than the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government, which let at least three of their menteris besar – Harun Idris, Taib Mahmud and Khir Toyo – have their day in court when they were charged with corruption. Lim’s case is not dissimilar to that of Khir Toyo, the former Selangor menteri besar, who was charged over his purchase of two plots of land and a bungalow in Shah Alam from a company.

Lim was charged in 2016 along with businesswoman Phang Li Koon for abusing his position as the Penang chief minister in approving a land deal as well as for purchasing a bungalow at below market price. Lim was also accused of abusing his power by approving the rezoning application of two pieces of land from agricultural to public housing by MESB, in which Phang is a director.

The people expect zero tolerance of corruption

The people expect more from a PH government given its five-point anti-corruption manifesto on Oct 31, 2017, in which it vowed to make Malaysia among the 10 “cleanest” countries in the world by the year 2030.

In the manifesto read out by PH chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Parliament, the PH alliance announced the measures they would take to curb corruption should they take over the government.

Well, this decision by the AGC to drop the corruption charges against Lim instead of letting him prove his innocence in court goes smack against PH’s anti-corruption manifesto and lags behind BN’s past record on similar corruption charges against their menteris besar.

Faced with an ethical dilemma, since he was Lim’s counsel before the election, and unable to recuse himself from the case, the AG should have picked the only ethical and honourable option which was to let the court decide. After all, as the AG, he must have some faith in the judiciary of this country, and surely the PH government must do better, not worse, than the old BN regime.

As it is, the AG’s credibility has slumped to dismal depths and the people’s faith in our justice system has been rudely shaken. The citizens of this country want to see justice done and to ensure that there is not one set of rules for the poor and another for the rich and powerful, whether the sum involved in the corruption is RM2.6 billion or RM2.6 million.

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.