Nazri backs call for non-prosecuting AG
But he says the government has put constitutional amendments on hold.
PETALING JAYA: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz today expressed support for a call to separate the functions of the Attorney-General and the Public Prosecutor in different individuals, but denied that the government interfered in the AG’s work.
“We can use the United Kingdom as a reference,” he said. “However, this is my personal opinion.”
In Britain, the Attorney General is the government’s chief legal adviser. Prosecution powers are in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Yesterday, the Bar Council called on the government to amend the constitution in order to distinguish the AG from the Public Prosecutor.
Its president, Lim Chee Wen, said that vesting the same person with both functions could give rise to “selective prosecution” due to intervention by the executive arm of government.
Lawyers for Liberty made a similar call, saying the AG should be answerable to Parliament.
Nazri, who sits on the Umno supreme council, dismissed the widely held notion that the government was interfering in the AG’s work.
“During my tenure as law minister, the government never interfered in the AG’s independence,” he said.
Nazri also said the government had put on hold any tabling of laws that would require revising the Federal Constitution. This would be necessary to fulfil the Bar Council’s call.
“It’s because we do not have the two-thirds majority needed to make the amendment and we do not trust the opposition lawmakers will give us their support,” he said.
As for making the AG answerable to Parliament, Nazri said it was not possible under the Malaysian system of government.
“In our parliament, only an elected MP can sit in the Dewan Rakyat.”
‘DAP will support’
However, DAP chairman Karpal Singh said his party would not have any problem supporting constitutional amendments in the public interest.
“The AG must be independent and he must be perceived as such too,” he said.
According to the veteran lawyer, the AG at present has a conflict of interest because he heads both the prosecution office and the judicial service.
“Most of the judges get appointed from the judicial service. So the judges are the AG’s former staff. It is fused in such a way that the AG’s and the judiciary’s independence are in question.”
Karpal also said the AG could be made answerable to Parliament if the Law Minister was appointed to the position.
“This is not something new,” he said. “From 1963 to 1977, the then law minister, Abdul Kadir Yusuff, also served as the AG and he delegated the prosecution office to the Solicitor-General, Salleh Abas.”