Remove attorney general’s powers to prosecute – clear conflict of interest

Guan Eng’s arrest smacks of selective prosecution, says Penang Forum.

Penang Forum is concerned about the circumstances and manner of the arrest and charging of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

The humiliating action smacks of selective prosecution in an opposition-ruled state.

The attorney general’s surprising personal intervention as the lead prosecutor in this case is truly worrisome. This is considering the disturbing circumstances surrouding his appointment to the attorney general’s post and his purported action in not proceeding with the recommendations by the MACC in a super high-profile case at the national level.

It only adds to the concern about justice being done and seen to be done.

The issue of a potential conflict of interest arises and is of paramount concern. The role of the attorney general as adviser to the government in power should be clearly separated from that of chief prosecutor who should be independent. For justice to be seen to done we cannot have a situation where the chief prosecutor may be seen as being of the government, by the government and for the government.

We also note that over the last few years, there has been an ongoing crackdown on opposition politicians and NGO activists under various repressive laws.

Whatever the merits of the case against Lim, there was no need to detain Lim overnight on the eve of the formal charging in court. Lim would have appeared in court had he been requested. There was no need to deploy dozens of police and MACC officers to detain and humiliate him in public.

We hope the authorities will display the same zeal and enthusiasm in investigating the 1MDB scandal, which is now the subject of investigations in seven countries.

Penang Forum has zero tolerance for corruption, but the authorities have to be fair in cracking down on corruption no matter where it occurs. Otherwise, the credibility of our various institutions will be further eroded.

Penang Forum steering committee
2 July 2016

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