Stop The Misuse Of Government Institutions To Browbeat Dissenting Voices

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) refers to the allegation made by YB Syed Saddiq and Party MUDA on 21 July that the Criminal Breach of Trust charge against him by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the misappropriation of funds is to pressure him into supporting the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

We express grave concerns on the allegation as it would tantamount to gross misuse of government regulatory and enforcement institutions to threaten and persecute opposition politicians and dissenting voices to the government of the day. This would also illustrate that one of the key factors for party hopping is the threat of prosecution, especially if one stops to be aligned with the government of the day. 

The gross abuse of state institutions, such as the MACC, the Malaysian police (PDRM), the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) and the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) should not be tolerated as it undermines multiparty democracy, equal playing field and the rule of law.

The reason why the government can exert such influence over these institutions and use them as political weapons is because the power to appoint and remove the heads of these institutions is vested in the Executive, especially the Prime Minister. Such abuses have been observed under the Barisan Nasional government with the removal of Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail in 2015 by the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the height of the 1MDB scandal, and there have been many other instances since.

BERSIH 2.0 condemns such grave misuse of government institutions to persecute dissenting voices and calls for reform of these institutions to make them independent of Executive influence.

The process of appointment and removal of key public officers should be independent, transparent, accountable, open to public scrutiny and merit based.  Appointments of the MACC Chief Commissioner and the Inspector-General of Police should not solely fall under the PM and Home Minister respectively but be put under the oversight of an independent Parliamentary Select Committee. To this end, a Public Appointments and Removal Bill should be enacted to mandate the regulation and oversight of appointment of all key officers to such government institutions. The MACC should be made to report to the Parliament instead of to the PM.

The AGC should be reformed to make the Attorney-General as the legal advisor of the government without the power to decide on prosecution of cases. A separate and independent Public Prosecutors Office should be established. The appointment of Attorney General and the Chief Public Prosecutor should be based on merit and integrity and subject to open, transparent and accountable appointment processes. 

The IRB, too, needs to be made impartial, professional and accountable, to avoid tax-related offences being inconsistently pursued on politicians, activists, and companies that happen to be in the government’s bad books.  

Released by,
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0