AG to throw the book at ‘3R’ offenders

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Claims public prosecutor need not give reason to seek charge withdrawal.

Attorney General (AG) Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh today pledged to fully prosecute those misusing and manipulating race, religion, and royalty — the so-called “3R” issues — including applying the Sedition Act against them if warranted.

Terrirudin used his maiden speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2024 in Putrajaya today to caution would-be offenders about his commitment in clamping down on such offences.

“We are very much well aware of the dangers of misusing and manipulating 3R issues, which have the tendency to disrupt and endanger the peaceful lives of people and national security.

Shafwan Zaidon

“Hence, I will not hesitate to bring any offenders before the face of justice and to take stern actions, subject to evidence of course, to maintain peace and order in this country including invoking the Sedition Act and other written laws, if necessary,” he said.

Rights activists have long challenged the use of the colonial-era Sedition Act by the government to silence critical views or political dissents for being vague and too sweeping.

Last July, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government would avoid using the Sedition Act 1948 except for situations when it involves the Rulers’ position.

The same month, minister in charge of law and institutional reform Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the government intended to review the relevance of several laws — including the Sedition Act 1948 — that can be used to deal with “3R” issues to ensure that they keep up with current developments, as some of these laws were enacted seven decades ago.

Terrirudin also asserted his right to initiate and discontinue charges against an accused person as the public prosecutor is enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

He said that as the public prosecutor, he is not duty bound to furnish a reason to anyone on why criminal charges are made or why trials in court are dropped midway as long as the discretionary powers have been exercised lawfully and takes into consideration the evidence presented by the respective investigating bodies.

“The role of AG as the PP is well established and protected under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution,” he said.

AG and PP are abbreviations for the attorney general and public prosecutor, respectively.

“Therefore, it is pertinent at this juncture to emphasise that the office of the PP must be permitted to discharge its duties well within the confines of Federal Constitution and any written laws without unnecessary external interference,” Terrirudin said.

He did not name anyone or refer to any specific case, but his remarks come in the wake of a legal challenge by the Malaysian Bar for a judicial review of the discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) granted last year to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who was accused of 47 counts of abusing millions of ringgit belonging to a charitable foundation called Yayasan Akalbudi.

At that time, deputy public prosecutor Datuk Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar said further investigations on Zahid’s case had to be carried out, following the representations from the accused to the AG to ask for all 47 charges to be reviewed.

The High Court granted the DNAA after the prosecutor requested to discontinue the trial.

This means that Zahid can still be tried in future on the same charges.

Terrirudin, who took office on September 6, said those in the legal fraternity should respect the prosecutor’s prerogative on whether or not to charge a person in court.

He said they should be fair and not act selectively on certain matters, as it could be a waste of time and resources.

But Terirudin also said he appreciated the Malaysian Bar role’s as a statutory law body.

“I have no qualms whatsoever to work in a progressive manner with the Malaysian Bar on a myriad of legal matters to further enhance and improve our legal system and jurisprudence,” he said.