“Serving judges mustn’t be considered for AG post to preserve judiciary independence”

A SERVING Federal Court, Court of Appeal or High Court judge must never be considered, let alone be appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister (PM) to be the Attorney-General (AG). They should remain judges until retirement.

Such is the stance advocated by non-governmental movement, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET), which further maintained that there should be a “cooling off period” of at least three years before appointment of just retired judges to the role “to avoid the perception of ‘rewards’ for things done while serving as judges”.

This follows recent media reports of a few serving judges being considered for the AG post after Tan Sri Idrus Harun “had expressed his intention not to serve out the rest of his contract which ends in March next year if he is to be replaced by the new government” (The Star, Dec 16).

The Star named the judges as Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said (Court of Appeal), Datuk Ahmad Fairuz Zainol Abidin (High Court) and Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh (High Court).

More recently, news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) – citing sources – reported that three serving judges appear to be in PM Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s consideration for appointment as the next AG.  They are Federal Court judge Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah and Court of Appeal judges Datuk Yaacob Sam and Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil.

“As such, the PM must clarify matters, including whether any sitting judges were met, and offered the position of AG,” MADPET co-founder Charles Hector pointed out in a media statement.

Charles Hector

“We need to remove perception that the independence of these judges has been compromised by such actions/omissions of government and others. We need to restore confidence in Malaysian judges to reassure us that cases involving ministers, politicians and even the government will always be treated independently and impartially by our judges.”

As a solution, MADPET proposed that a senior and suitable member of the AG’s Chambers (AGC) be appointed as the AG given that the appointment of others – including former or serving judges – have raised concerns in recent years about “selective prosecution” and questionable use of prosecution powers in certain cases.

“UMNO secretary-general (Datuk Seri) Ahmad Maslan’s acquittal on money laundering charges by the High Court on Sept 29 after he paid a compound of RM1.1 mil is one such case of questionable use of prosecution powers,” asserted Hector.

“One of the measures that is currently being fought for to ensure independence of judges is the removal of the PM’s powers in appointment in which many including MADPET have been calling for the selection and appointment of judges be done by an independent body like maybe the Judicial Appointment Commission who can then advise the King directly.” – Dec 27, 2022

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