Malaysia: transparency campaign urges separation of judicial powers

21 Mar 16

The powers of the attorney general and public prosecutor in Malaysia should be separated in order to establish greater independence in the country’s judiciary, Transparency International has recommended.


The anti-corruption NGO said the attorney general should explain why he has not already made the change, which was first recommended by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

TI’s Malaysian arm argued that the fact the same person holds both posts and is accountable mainly to prime minister Najib Razak explains why there have not been any serious investigations into the corruption allegations surrounding the prime minister.

The NGO noted that, under the current system, the candidate for the post of attorney general and public prosecutor does not require the confidence of the judiciary or the public, only the prime minister, who appoints him in the post.

This then makes it easier for “unchecked and inappropriate decisions” to be made, it said. Last year, Najib replaced a more critical attorney general with Mohamed Apandi, who swiftly closed an investigation related to the $4bn missing from 1MDB, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.

This involved $680m deposited into Najib’s private accounts from Saudi Arabia. Apandi closed the investigation and cleared the prime minister of criminal offences and corruption.

Najib also suspended the task force investigating the 1MDB scandal and arrested or transferred investigators at the MACC.

The attorney general has chosen not to proceed with three investigation papers submitted by the MACC relating to the allegations and has instructed them to close their files.

Transparency International Malaysia said the attorney general needs to act independently and make independent decisions on whether to prosecute, especially on high-profile cases.

Separating the power of public prosecutor from attorney general would work as a method of checks and balance and ensure the independence of the criminal prosecution branch of the government, protecting it from political interference, it added.

The position of public prosecutor should be made answerable to parliament and not to the executive arm of government, it said, and the attorney general should be apolitical.

“There should never be an accumulation of power by a single person or body of government – from time immemorial this has always been the greatest threat to liberty and the life of a nation,” the NGO said.

In February, Transparency International’s Asia Pacific regional director warned that Malaysia is sliding towards autocracy amid the sovereign wealth fund scandal. 

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