Dire need for institutional reforms, says Hakam

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Graphic: csj-ng.org

Hakam is gravely concerned with the seemingly increasing disregard for the fundamentals of democracy by the federal government and key institutions of the nation.

That the situation is critical is evident given the increasingly strident and combative tone that the government and institutions have adopted in dealing with and rejecting widespread criticism over the manner in which matters of national importance and public interest have been dealt with.

Without intending to define or limit the nature of these matters, Hakam views with concern the manner in which the following matters have or have not been addressed:

  • Race relations and increasingly contentious and divisive ethno-religious issues: The direct impact on the social and economic environment can no longer be ignored. It is no coincidence that an increasing number of Malaysians are looking for more fulfilling lives elsewhere;
  • The administration of justice: It is no longer possible to brush aside the obvious signs of a significant loss of public confidence in institutions involved in this vital aspect of the democratic framework of this nation. Internationally recognised indexes conclusively show that Malaysia is no longer perceived as a country that upholds the rule of law. The efficacy of these public institutions is made possible only by the fact that stakeholders continue to have confidence in them;
  • Free and fair elections: This needs no explanation; and
  • Corruption and illicit capital out-flow: This has hurt and continues to hurt all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion and background.

The dismissiveness of the government and its reliance on a legal framework that it has harnessed to suppress legitimate dissent on matters that affect all Malaysians, regardless of their backgrounds and political leanings, clearly point to the interest of the nation having been made subservient to political interests.

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Hakam is however is alarmed at the manner in which the constitutional framework has been exploited to allow for this outcome.

It is for this reason that Hakam has, from its registration as a society in 1991, consistently championed the rule of law and the protection of the administration of justice. It notes with pride that amongst its founding members were not only legal luminaries such as the late YM Raja Aziz Addruse, but also two former Prime Ministers of this country, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman and the late Tun Hussein Onn.

Significantly, Hakam was mooted in December 1988 as a response to the assault on the rule of law, centred on the assault on democracy inherent in Operasi Lalang in 1987, the assault on the judiciary and the amendment to the federal constitution suborning the judiciary to Parliament in 1988, and the enactment of anti-democratic statutory provisions aimed at suppressing legitimate dissent.

Recently various acts have undermined public confidence in the integrity of institutions. Hakam notes with regret the steps taken by the executive in this regard – including:

  • the sudden removal of the former attorney general,
  • the expulsion of the former deputy prime minister and replacement of one other minister who had raised concerns in the public interest,
  • the dismantling and subsequent reconstituting of the public accounts committee of Parliament mid-stream, and
  • action against members of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

It is for this reason that Hakam has always striven for institutional reform.

Hakam notes the present ongoing efforts of a wide spectrum of our citizenry in this laudable endeavour and lends its support to these efforts; they must be given their due public space as they are grounded on the freedoms guaranteed by the federal constitution, the supreme law of the land.

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Hakam supports in particular the call for urgent action by all stakeholders across boundaries as regards the following matters:

  • Reforming the constitutional prosecutorial framework to make separate the role of the public prosecutor from that of the attorney general. In that regard, the power to prosecute must be vested in an independent and accountable body charged with the role of instituting prosecutions of a general nature;
  • Establishing the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission as an independent and accountable constitutional body with the power to institute prosecutions in its own right;
  • Establishing the Malaysian Judicial Appointments Commission as an independent and accountable body that is not connected to the judiciary or the executive. The power of the prime minister to recommend appointments to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong must be limited to making recommendations proposed by this commission;
  • Establishing the office of the inspector general of police (IGP) as an independent and accountable body that is answerable to the Malaysian public and not the Executive. In tandem, the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission must be established as recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry;
  • Reforming the process of general elections so as to firmly establish a foundation for clean and fair elections; and
  • Repealing all laws that suppress legitimate dissent and violate the rule of law.

In that context:

  • Hakam also supports calls for an independent and accountable public inquiry into 1MDB. Those consequently implicated – directly or indirectly – in any wrongdoing must be proceeded against.
  • Hakam deprecates the efforts to dismiss the growing revelations relating to 1MDB without such an inquiry. These machinations are damaging the interests of the nation. Political interests have also led to a ramping up of ethno-religious rhetoric to levels that are potentially destructive.
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Robyn Choi is secretary-general of Hakam. This state is issued on behalf of the Hakam executive committee.

 

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