SEPARATION OF AGC FAILED DUE TO LACK OF POLITICAL WILL - SAYS THOMAS
PETALING JAYA, SELANGOR :Former attorney-general (AG) Tommy Thomas has blamed a lack of political will for the failure to separate the offices of the AG and the public prosecutor during the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.
He said the separation would require reforms to Article 147 and other provisions in the Federal Constitution.
" It would require a constitutional amendment, which means a two-thirds majority vote (in Parliament). PH never had this majority, so it was just not possible, " he said during the Conference on Necessary Pre-GE15 Reforms jointly organised by the Bar Council and electoral reform group Bersih.
Thomas was responding to a question on why he did not push for such reforms during the 22 months he served as AG, from 2018 to March 2020.
However, he conceded that the PH government had managed to amend the Constitution on one occasion, which was the passing of the Undi 18 and automatic voter registration bill.
" What happened was the minister in charge was very much involved. He took ownership and managed to convince his fellow MPs to unanimously support it," he said, referring to Muda President Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
Thomas added that while both he and the Bar Council supported the separation of the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), he did not think it was an all-encompassing solution.
" Let's say the AGC is split into three (3) departments, each with its own head. That ipso facto doesn't solve the problem unless the three (3) office holders, at the apex, are people of integrity.
" People forget about that part. Where are we going to find top-class talents who have integrity and honesty?" Thomas asked.
Meanwhile, lawyer Andrew Yong, who authored Bersih's research paper, made several recommendations on separating the offices of the AG and the public prosecutor.
" It's valuable for the prime minister to continue retaining the flexibility to appoint whoever is the best candidate for AG, whether from within or outside Parliament," Yong said.
He added that the public prosecutor should, with the court's consent, have the ability to take over the conduct of any prosecution.
" Parliament should also have the power to direct the public prosecutor to consult with the AG while remaining independent."
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@ Jackie San