Malaysian Bar: AGC tarnished reputation and credibility with Zahid DNAA decision

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AGC wholly attributed withdrawal of the case to the High Court and use that as a reason in the media statement, instead of providing a detailed explanation.

The Malaysian Bar Council said the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has tarnished its reputation and credibility as the prosecuting party and that of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as the investigating body when it applied to drop the charges against Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Its president Karen Cheah said the application for the discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) was made at such a late juncture after a prima facie case had already been established by the previous lead Deputy Public Prosecutor.

“The recent media statement issued by the AGC dated September 5 was completely devoid of proper justifications as regards why it had requested for a DNAA. With the DNAA granted by the High Court, Zahid’s counsel seized the opportunity to push for an outright acquittal instead of a DNAA.

Hari Anggara

“Let us be clear and make no mistake about it: the learned High Court Judge (Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah) had no alternative but to decide on either a DNAA or an acquittal. It therefore rings hollow for the AGC to wholly attribute the withdrawal of the case to the High Court and use that as a reason in the media statement, instead of providing a detailed explanation,” said Cheah in a statement.

Cheah said the judge, in this case, had lamented that should the prosecution decide in the near future to not proceed with any further charges, then much time and taxpayers’ money would have been wasted.

“On this note, the Malaysian Bar stresses that the AG must take responsibility and be accountable to the citizens of the country,” said Cheah.

She added that there must be real political will to carry out a complete revamp of the structure within the AGC where the roles of the AG and the Public Prosecutor must be separated.

“This is to create true independence in the exercise of prosecutorial powers vested with the Public Prosecutor, free from any influence of the Executive.

“The AG can take its advisory role to the government, but the Public Prosecutor acts as the guardian of public interest and must fulfil its functions and duties entrusted with utmost integrity, free from political influence and bias, to maintain public confidence in the Malaysian criminal justice system,” said Cheah.

She said Zahid’s case has shown that it is increasingly urgent that pivotal changes must take place by 2024 so that the criminal justice system is strengthened to remove prospects and/or appearance of bias in the way politicians are being charged, and in the way charges against them are being withdrawn.

Cheah said there had been high-profile cases in recent years where the AGC had dropped criminal charges against certain politicians amid trial, reportedly following representations or instructions. She noted these cases were high-profile as “they hold national and public interests primarily due to the substantial sums of money allegedly misappropriated by those individuals in positions of power and authority”.

The Malaysian Bar also expressed hope that “good sense and justice will prevail” and that the “unhealthy trend” of dropping charges will not continue, highlighting cases such as ongoing trials involving former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak such as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s second corruption case involving alleged money laundering and failure to declare her income tax.