PETALING JAYA: Amendments to a slew of laws and the ensuing costs are among factors needed to be considered before the powers between the attorney general (AG) and the public prosecutor can be separated, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (pic).
While supporting such a move, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) said the government still has time to study the proposal.
“There are implications which need to be looked into first before the proposal can be adopted.
“Although some countries have done this, the proposal is not so easy to implement,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Among the factors, he said, are amending at least 19 separate laws including the Federal Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority support in Parliament.
The main amendments are Articles 138 and 145 of the constitution.
Article 145 concerns the appointment of the AG including the powers of prosecution.
Under Article 138, the AG forms part of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission whose jurisdiction extends to all members of the judicial and legal service.
Apart from amending the laws, Wan Junaidi noted that separating the powers of the AG would also result in financial costs for the government.
“The AG will then need to have his own office, library, staff and advisers because he can no longer share the same space with the public prosecutor. This may cost millions annually,” he added.
He said a comprehensive study is needed before a decision could be made on the matter.
Last October, Wan Junaidi said the government would have until 2023 to implement the proposal mooted under the National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023.
In 2018, the then Pakatan Harapan government pledged to separate the responsibilities of the AG from those of the public prosecutor.
Among the proposals are that the AG should be appointed from among qualified MPs, and will be a minister acting as legal adviser to the government.
The public prosecutor, meanwhile, will be an individual free from political interests with autonomy to carry out prosecutions.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) chairman Thomas Fann said separating the powers of AG would remove a conflict of interest and improve accountability.
He said the AG should cease to hold the office of public prosecutor and focus his authority on covering federal matters and not the entire legal service.
“The Prime Minister should have the flexibility to choose the best candidates for the office of AG,” he said, adding that the AG’s post could also be held by the de facto law minister.
He suggested that the King be accorded the power to appoint the public prosecutor upon the recommendation of the appropriate service commission on the advice of the prime minister.
“Parliament should have the power to require the public prosecutor to consult with the AG in particular cases, but must not require the public prosecutor to act subject to the consent or under the direction or control of any person,” he added.
Fann said separating the powers of the AG would help put an end to allegations of bias and selective prosecution.