Reform needed as AG juggles conflict of interest, says think-tank

Modified 30 Jan 2016, 3:39 am

The office of the attorney-general and the office of the public prosecutor are fused into one - and this has given rise to a conflct of interest, says Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas).

On the one hand, the attorney-general is supposed to act in the public interest in his decisions to prosecute criminal cases but, on the other, he is the chief legal adviser to the government.

This, said Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan, has created a major conflict of interest in cases concerning members of the government.

He was responding to attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali's decision not to press charges against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and to instruct the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to close the cases.

"This decision did not come as a major surprise," said Wan Saiful.

"The main issue here is that the office of the attorney-general and the office of the public prosecutor are fused into one, which is a major conflict of interest," he added in a statement.

Wan Saiful emphasised that without reforming the Attorney-General's Chambers, efforts to improve MACC’s investigation quality and its independence would be of little use.

"The AG's powers are presently all-encompassing.

"We need to urgently introduce a check-and-balance mechanism for anyone (possessing) such far-reaching powers.

"We must separate the AG's Chambers from the public prosecutor," he added.

Wan Saiful said this point was also stressed in a memorandum submitted by Ideas and several other organisations to reform MACC.

The memorandum, submitted to the MACC last July, called for the setting up of a new Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ICAC) free from the shackles of the executive.

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