Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 6 July 2020

Malaysia’s new normal of a political revolving door since GE14, 2018 – BN to PH and now back to BN/PN – is proving to be also a revolving door of corruption prosecutions. We saw the BN politicians being charged for corruption over the 1MDB and other scandals after 2018 and these are on-going cases which expose the behind-the-scene tricks by these politicians.

Now that the PH government has fallen simply because Prime Minister Mahathir lost the plot, we are now witnessing the re-opening of the corruption cases involving PH politicians and which were rather foolishly dropped by the PH government after GE14.

Of course, the revolving door is maintained by the revolving series of Attorney Generals who are appointed by the government-of-the-day. All the same, the Judiciary remains the arbiter of whether these politicians are corrupt or otherwise.

Justice must be seen to be done

With this new normal of a revolving door of corruption prosecutions, the public can be pardoned for being cynical and sceptical. The citizens of this country want to see justice done without fear or favour – regardless of political affiliation or socio-economic status, whether the sum involved in the corruption is 2.6 billion (in the case of the former PM) or 2.6 million ringgit (in the case of the former CM of Penang). This oft-quoted aphorism by Lord Hewart CJ has almost become a cliché but it is worth reminding Malaysians:

“It is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”.

Another important example (reform?) the PH should have implemented was to ensure all their public officials stepped down when they had been charged. This, the former Penang CM patently failed to do even after he had been charged for corruption. It became a shameful example that BN politicians were quick to follow after they were charged with corruption.

The Role of the Attorney General

The decisions of the AG are thus crucial to vindicate the public’s interest in upholding an honest government and an independent judicial system. Whatever the Attorney general’s political affiliations, it is the responsibility of all public servants to maintain a high ethical standard to serve the people effectively and honestly.

The Attorney General’s duty is to actively prosecute officials who have violated the public’s trust.  The AG’s Office reminds government entities of their obligations under these laws and how to comply.  More than anything else, the AG cannot possibly act in a partisan manner when faced with a case involving a leader of his affiliated political coalition. To do so would be to risk scorn and the loss of credibility in our justice system. Faced with the ethical dilemma of political partisanship, the only course of action for the Attorney General is to let the court decide. After all, the AG must have faith in the Judiciary in this country.

Whether this revolving door of corruption prosecutions will turn out just to be another circus in Malaysia’s political arena or whether it will turn out to be a boon for the rakyat, only time will tell.  And as we deliberate over this political dilemma, may I remind Malaysians of this rather astute observation of the Malaysian Attorney General’s Office by one of Malaysia’s foremost constitutional law advocates:

“The powers of the Attorney General make nonsense of the doctrine of separation of powers. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The power of the AG has increased since Merdeka, it is increasing and ought to be diminished. Immediate steps ought to be taken by the relevant authorities to reduce his powers so that the doctrine of the separation of powers is restored to its proper place in the Constitution.” (Tommy Thomas, ‘Abuse of Power’, 2016:225)

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