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Monday, December 12, 2016

'Split public prosecutor role from AG post to avoid conflict'



A think-tank has urged the seperation of attorney-general's (AG) role as legal adviser to the government and public prosecutor as the combination of two roles have caused problems and conflict of interest.
The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) urged this via a new paper, titled 'Seperating the Attorney-general and Public Prosecutor: Enhancing Rule of Law in Malaysia".
"When Abdul Gani Patail was removed as the AG during the 1MDB investigations there was a huge public outcry."
"There has been increased public concern for greater accountability and transparency to ensure that criminal justice is enforced fairly and impartially​.
"It is not so much about the AG but about the role of the public prosecutor. But in our case, these two are confused because the two posts are held by the same person," Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said in a statement.
He noted the combination of the two roles currently causes conflict of interest especially in cases where the AG has to decide whether or not to prosecute a case against the government or someone in office.
"How can the defence lawyer also hold the power to decide whether or not to prosecute his client?"​ he asked.
'Public prosecutor independently appointed'
He acknowledged that it would be unfair for AG to be burdened with this conflict of interest as people may question the integrity of the AG and the public do not see that AG as capable of doing right thing due to the anomaly in the system.
"This is why we must protect the sanctity of the institution by changing the setup so that two different persons hold the post of AG and public prosecutor."
As such, the study proposes that the AG, who is legal adviser to government, must be a Member of Parliament who is appointed by the prime minister to ensure trust between the AG and the cabinet and PM.
"The AG would also continue to give legal advice to the government and can be removed by the prime minister, like any other cabinet minister.
"This is only fair as the AG ultimately is the lawyer to a client who is the government," he said.
The public prosecutor, he said, should be independently appointed to head the office of the public prosecutions​ and be free to prosecute at his or her discretion.
"In the United ​K​ingdom and other Commonwealth countries​, the AG should​ also oversee the public prosecutor​ so that there is accountability in the public prosecutor's decisions.

"The AG should only intervene in cases of national interest or international affairs​ and there must be clearly defined guidelines on when that is applicable," he added.
This way, he said, the AG and public prosecutor can both be free to do their jobs to the best of their capabilities, in the interest of the Malaysian people.
This could be done with the amendment of the country's Federal Constitution, he said.- Mkini

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