LETTER | Agora Society Malaysia is deeply concerned about whether the unity government is still the administration that upholds good governance and justice.
Does it still have the political will to implement institutional reforms as promised by Pakatan Harapan and BN in their respective manifestos?
Major doubts and questions have arisen following the discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) granted to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, despite being ordered to enter his defence on the 47 charges that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing prima facie in January 2022.
Until the roles of attorney-general and public prosecutor are formally separated and the appointment of public prosecutors is independent of political interference, the actions of the DPP could be perceived as influenced by the current ruling parties and leaders.
This is because the attorney-general, as a government appointee, still retains control over who, what and how to prosecute.
This incident has led to a great loss of confidence among civil society and the general public that political interference has taken precedence in determining the outcome, and justice will not be seen to have been done if the trial does not run its full course.
This case has nothing to do with the integrity of the judiciary. The decision not to prosecute rests entirely with the DPP.
Therefore, the DPP, attorney-general and the government are accountable. They owe the public a good explanation given that the charges are not new and the prosecution team had more than a year to prepare for the trial.
Agora Society would like to remind politicians and their supporters defending Zahid that two wrongs don't make a right
Muhyiddin Yassin’s release is already seen as controversial, now Zahid's release does not mean that both politicians are truly innocent or have done anything against the values of good governance and public accountability.
Agora Society takes corruption very seriously, as it is a cancer that corrupts our values - not just bleeds the nation's resources at the expense of fair distribution to the people.
We understand that there are legal loopholes, for example, laws that regulate political funding are non-existent.
Hence, we call for a Political Financing Act so that Muhyiddin's case can be relooked.
The prime minister's power over public institutions such as the MACC and public prosecutors (through the attorney-general) must be reformed.
What we have learnt from the past, during Najib Abdul Razak’s administration is that the abuses are rampant and this continues even now under the unity government led by the so-called reformist Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
Worse, he even holds the position of finance minister, which greatly concentrates and further consolidates his power.
We wonder if he would relinquish control of public institutions such as the MACC, making it directly accountable to Parliament and separate the attorney-general from the public prosecutors to fulfil the manifesto promises that sound reformist.
Not even in the first Harapan cabinet led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad did he hold two key ministerial positions at the same time! Anwar needs to be reminded of the lesson - power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Public perception is powerful; people have a sense of justice and know what may have gone wrong.
If the corrupt leaders are not seen to be brought to justice for political reasons, their release sends a dangerously wrong signal about the government's commitment to good governance and anti-corruption.
PN stealing the show
No wonder the opposition Perikatan Nasional is trying to steal the show by claiming to be “clean and stable” and campaigning on an “anti-corruption” ticket, even though its leader Muhyiddin has much to answer for during his short tenure in the PN government.
Agora Society joins the chorus of many like-minded civil society organisations in calling on the unity government to stay away from the role of public prosecutors and allow them to be independent, professional and work in the public interest without political interference.
If this is not possible, what about the more difficult reforms? If Harapan is to have any hope of winning the hearts and minds of the electorate in the run-up to future elections, they must deliver on the institutional reforms they have long promised and advocated.
Now they have no Mahathir to blame, Anwar is fully in charge!
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.