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10 APRIL 2024

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

AG-PP separation to take two years - Azalina

The process to separate the roles of the government’s top legal adviser and public prosecutor will be implemented in phases over two years, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said.

This will be done through an “empirical study” in three countries, starting with Canada in May. The other two countries are Australia and the United Kingdom.

“The parameters of this empirical study covers several aspects including institutional protection for the appointment and termination of the public prosecutor, accountability especially the need to report to anybody as a check-and-balance mechanism,” Azalina said in a statement today.

The study will also look into the limits of the attorney-general’s power to intervene in criminal justice policy and the power to stop prosecution once it has been started by the public prosecutor, as well as various organisational and operational aspects.

Azalina said the study had been approved by the cabinet on Jan 31, and will be overseen by the Comparative Study Committee and a technical committee.

The Comparative Study Committee comprises the chairperson of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Human Rights, Elections and Institutional Reforms, one representative each from the government and opposition MPs, and representatives from agencies such as the Finance Ministry and Public Service Department.

The Legal Affairs Division and the Attorney-General’s Chambers will jointly serve as the secretariat for both committees.

Attorney-General’s Chambers

Elaborating on the upcoming study in Canada, Azalina said this entails a meeting with Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General Arif Virani, a special select committee, and the country’s public prosecutions director.

There will also be a roundtable discussion at the University of Ottawa together with Universiti Malaya’s law faculty and legal experts.

“The discussions in Canada will focus on detailed empirical study and on obtaining direct evidence on best practices for models of separation of powers,” she said.

“The implementation of this study demonstrates that the Madani government remains committed to the institutional reform agenda which will ensure more democratic governance in line with good administration, legal systems and governance,” she added.

Roles review

Last week, it was reported that the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Human Rights, Election and Institutional Reform is reviewing the separation of powers between the two roles, which are presently held by a single person.

The issue is a key demand by groups such as Bersih and the Malaysian Bar.

A special government task force had previously done a comparative study of nine countries, including the three countries in the upcoming empirical study.

In September, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim reaffirmed the government’s commitment to separate the roles and powers of the attorney-general and public prosecutor but pointed out that it cannot be bulldozed through.

Later, Azalina announced the formation of two special task forces to expedite the matter.

One task force would be entrusted with comparative research while the other would look into the technical aspects, she said. - Mkini

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