PETALING JAYA: The spotlight has been turned on the appointment of the Attorney General (AG) after differing views emerged on how a person is appointed to the post.
The issue began during a special Umno briefing on Saturday (Aug 27) when Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (pic), during her speech, questioned why the AG was not from “one of our own”.
The Pengerang MP, who was a former law minister, claimed that it was the norm for democratic countries to appoint their AGs from the ranks of the ruling coalition or from among its supporters.
“If the power to change the AG is in the hands of the prime minister, why didn’t he change the AG when this was under his jurisdiction?
“I just want to ask this, why can’t the AG be changed?” she said.
The Coalition of Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) and Pakatan Harapan leaders criticised Azalina’s comments, saying that she has changed her stand on non-interference in the judiciary.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said that Azalina had previously wished to separate the roles of the AG as legal adviser to the government and his concurrent function as the public prosecutor.
“She had also spoken previously about not interfering with matters of the court,” he added.
Beruas DAP MP Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham said Azalina, who is also a former Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker, was going against the rule of law.
“She is saying the Prime Minister should appoint an AG who will act according to the dictates of the Prime Minister, including abusing the power of the AG acting as a public prosecutor to withdraw charges against the corrupt.
“The public prosecutor should be answerable to Parliament rather than the PM,” he added.
PKR women’s wing vice-president Sangetha Jayakumar said Azalina was being hypocritical.
“You want an independent legislature and biased appointments at the same time. The hypocrisy of the entire situation is sickening,” she said.
However, Umno Youth chief Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki defended Azalina, and instead said it was Bersih and Pakatan who were being hypocritical.
“Let’s not forget what Pakatan had done towards the judicial and national legal institution during their 22 months in power,” he said on Facebook.
He cited several instances where Pakatan had favoured certain individuals for top judicial appointments but was now calling on the public to respect the judiciary.
He added that Pakatan, when it was in the ruling government, had also preferred a government-friendly AG when Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was appointed to the post.
Asyraf also noted that Pakatan had appointed Latheefa Koya, who was a PKR leadership council member, as the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Bar and its counterparts in Sabah and Sarawak have spoken out against political figures allegedly calling for the Prime Minister to interfere in the court case of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and for the change of the current Attorney General.
In a joint statement, Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, Advocates Association of Sarawak president Antonio Sim and Sabah Law Society president Roger Chin said they were deeply disturbed by the calls, which can undermine the principle of separation of powers inscribed in the Constitution.
“Such calls to interfere in the judicial process or to replace the current AG are made in blatant disregard of the principle of separation of powers and the entrenched constitutional democracy of Malaysia.”