It was recently reported that a particular politician had made a statement on 6 January 2021 that one of the key gripes his party has with the current government is due to its decision to continue with court cases against a particular political party and its leaders.
The Malaysian Bar views with concern such statements as this does not augur well for the rule of law.
Malaysia is a country that values the separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, as this provides checks and balances against one another.
Judicial independence is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and it treats everyone as equal before the eyes of the law. This is irrespective of one’s political status or authority.
As aptly stated by the Chief Justice in her Ladyship’s recent New Year message, the judiciary is not beholden to anybody or anything but the law.
The Malaysian Bar takes the view that it is the duty of every Malaysian to protect the sacrosanct principles of independence of the judiciary from any encroachment of any partisan interests.
The attorney general – as the country’s top public prosecutor – the guardian of public interest. He or she must possess the utmost integrity and be allowed to exercise his or her constitutional rights and wisdom to initiate and continue with prosecutions based on sufficient evidence and law. This should be regardless of any political influences and motivation.
However, if one feels that the discretion was exercised by some irrelevant consideration, then this could be subject to challenge through the courts.
An accused must be given his or her constitutional rights to a fair trial and be permitted wide latitudes to defend his or her case in court. The rule of law cannot be imposed by force or political decree; citizens must therefore actively cooperate in upholding this basic doctrine of a democratic nation.
The Malaysian Bar therefore resists any notion to drag legal institutions into the political fray under the assumption that it can be used as a tool for political purposes.
In order to allay any misconceptions among the public, the Malaysian Bar once again calls on the government to hasten its earlier proposal to separate the offices of the attorney general and the public prosecutor to ensure greater transparency in our country’s justice system.
The Malaysian Bar hopes that politicians will refrain from making remarks that will seriously undermine the public’s confidence in our system of governance.
Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian Bar
This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.