Dr M: Hold on, not just yet

PUTRAJAYA: The breaking up of the powers held by the Attorney General (AG), which is one of the central institutional reforms of the government, is shelved for now.

Also put on the backburner is the decision on the participation of civil servants in politics.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the separation of powers between the office of the public prosecutor and Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) required amendments to the Federal Constitution, which would need the support of a two-thirds majority in Parliament which the ruling Pakatan Harapan did not have.

“So this has been held off for the time being,” he said yesterday.

Currently, there is too much concentration of powers within the hands of the AG who acts as the legal adviser to the government and also the public prosecutor.

The AG is appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister. This ultimately leads to the Prime Minister deciding on the AG’s fate.

Under the proposed reforms, the AG is to act as the legal adviser to the government while the Public Prosecutor will be appointed by Parliament and answerable only to Parliament.

This separation of powers means the Prime Minister could be investigated and prosecuted without the Public Prosecutor fearing reprisals.

On the participation of civil servants in politics, Dr Mahathir said there were several grey areas that needed to be resolved.

“In the past, we knew that teachers were mostly the ones who were politically active. But now there are more civil servants who are involved. At what level do we cut them off?

“We haven’t firmed up anything but perhaps leeway will be given to those who are not involved in serious decision-making,” he said after chairing a meeting by the special Cabinet committee on anti-corruption.

The Prime Minister also announced that the National Anti-Corruption Plan would be launched in January.

The plan will strengthen the administration by ensuring good governance, integrity and a corrupt-free government. Plans were also afoot to enhance the jurisdiction of the Judicial Appointments Commission to ensure no external interference.

The special Cabinet committee has also given government-linked companies two years from now to set an integrity and governance unit.

“The implementation of this unit will be supervised by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission,” Dr Mahathir said.

Asked about the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s decision to re-investigate the purchase of the French Scorpene submarines in 2002 in a deal worth €1bil (RM4.77bil), Dr Mahathir said it had the authority to reopen old cases.

“They must have a reason to do so. This is an old case but if MACC finds some hanky-panky, it has the authority to look into it again,” he said.

Asked whether he is aware of allegations that the son of a Cabinet minister is “controlling” a ministry, he said: “The MACC will investigate.”

There have been claims that the man would determine the ministry’s activities, including decisions about tenders that are awarded to a company.

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