At one time, the attorney-general (AG) was prosecuting and persecuting everyone. Whether we agreed or not, we could only complain and watch.
When the new AG was appointed, many pending cases were reviewed and withdrawn. Now there are murmurings even among Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders that perhaps the AG should not be the sole prosecuting authority. Investigating authorities such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police should be given the authority to prosecute, too.
Are we not talking based on our own convenience and personal preferences? Today, because it involves Lim Guan Eng, the high-profile finance minister, suddenly the MACC is an angel that should be given the power to prosecute even though the AG has decided otherwise.
I am not a blind supporter of anybody. I just want to rationalise a little more to make sure that we are not dispensing a half-baked solution to a complex problem.
If the AG’s Chambers (AGC) can be suspected of making arbitrary or unsound decisions, can we say the same of the MACC, the police or any enforcement or regulatory authority?
Today, when we dislike a decision by the AGC, we say “Let’s give the MACC the power to prosecute”. What will happen tomorrow if we see a decision by the MACC that we dislike? Will we then argue that the AGC should be the sole prosecuting authority?
The roles of investigation and prosecution should be separate and distinct to ensure checks and balances. Abuse of power can happen anywhere. We just have to ensure that the chances of that happening are kept to a minimum.
Investigating authorities such as the MACC and police have enormous power. Reinforcing them with the power to prosecute without proper safeguards is risky, too. It will dilute objectivity due to the concentration of power. Allowing investigating authorities to prosecute is like expecting them to be able to see their own mistakes and shortcomings.
It ultimately boils down to whether we trust the government we chose to govern. Do we trust our leaders who have assigned people to be in charge of various important agencies in the country?
In a nutshell, the question is how we look at Barisan Nasional and PH, and how we look at Tommy Thomas and Mohamed Apandi Ali. We can’t be supporting the AGC as the sole prosecuting authority today but changing our minds tomorrow.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.