Malaysia Day is Meaningless Without The Rule Of Law and A Clean Government

As we celebrate Malaysia’s 60th birthday, let us remember independence is always a work in progress, never a finished business.

Independence is not about merely getting rid of foreign rulers, but about people being the boss of their government and master of their own destiny.

We can be recolonised internally when our democracy is disabled and externally when our government sell out to foreign powers.

Hence, independence requires the rule of law, where everyone including the head of government is equal before the law, and a clean government, where public funds cannot be plundered, and power cannot be bought.

Our nation’s independence was at its weakest point on 27 July 2015 when Prime Minister Najib Razak sacked Attorney General (AG) Abdul Ghani Patail and appointed Mohamad Apandi Ali as his replacement in order to prevent his own prosecution over the 1MDB scandal. Najib was effectively above the law in Malaysia.

The 14th General Election in 2018 that enabled Najib Razak and his partners in crime to be charged was a turning point not only for our democracy, but also our independence and the rule of law.

The democratic transition was the fruit of blood, toil, tears and sweat by generations of Malaysians in demanding true democracy. Many lost their freedom while many more suffered police violence for exercising their constitutional right to speech and peaceful assembly.

Whatever our partisan preference and interests are, the end of one-party rule and the ouster of Najib should be cherished because it allowed Malaysia to move towards a multiparty democracy and revive the rule of law.

Malaysia’s independence returned to its highest point on 23 August 2022 with the conviction and imprisonment of Najib. It sent a clear message to every Malaysian: even Prime Minister is not above the law, commit a crime and you will be punished.

We warmly welcome the Law and Institutional Reform Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s announcement of appointing two task forces for cross-national and technical studies on the separation of PP from AG within a year. We think that the separation should be completed within a year, and that should not be delayed on technical or financial ground.

We would like to make clear that while the AG-PP separation in a year’s time is being processed, the Unity Government and the AG must give a public assurance on the following:

  1. A moratorium on application of DNAA on high-profile cases involving politicians, namely Najib’s ongoing and outstanding cases, his wife Rosmah Mansor’s ongoing cases, Lim Guan Eng, Syed Saddiq and any other cases. Let the judiciary determine their guilt or innocence without any interference from the AG or his political master.
  2. To recharge Zahid again soonest after new investigation on the case of Yayasan Akalbudi – a charity foundation purportedly for mosques, tahfiz and orphans – which carried 47 charges of corruption, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and money laundering.
  3. To ensure the AGC’s appeal on Zahid’s Foreign Visa System (VLC) case which carried 40 charges of bribery would not be thrown out conveniently on some technical grounds.
  4. The Prosecution’s failure in missing the deadline to file an appeal against Najib and former 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy in the 1MDB audit report tampering case, resulting in their acquittal must be investigated and the negligence of the AGC officials responsible must be duly punished.

The truth of the matter is that the AGC’s credibility has been greatly tarnished by its serial decisions to apply for DNAA or DAA (Discharge Amounting to an Acquittal) for so many government politicians and officials from Lim Guan Eng (then Finance Minister) to Musa Aman (former Chief Minister of Sabah). A Prime Minister which endorses such decision is simply endorsing selective impunity.

If Najib was jailed last year because he was out of power but walks free tomorrow because his party is back to power, then the message to Malaysians is loud and clear: “you are innocent until you lose power, and you regain innocence when you regain power.” It will destroy public confidence in our political system and produce political cynicism.

The implication would be disastrous: any criminal who wants to get away should just win the next general election and change the AG. Such a Malaysia, where innocence hinges on power and election replaces court in deciding justice, would be an international pariah and a prime target for economic colonisation.

On Malaysia’s 60th birthday, we appeal to the common sense and decency of all political parties and elected representatives to defend our independence by upholding the rule of law and a clean government. We renew our call for an inter-party peace deal to prevent any political blackmails from partners in coalition government.

Najib who looted Malaysia must remain in jail for his SRC case and be tried fairly for the remaining cases. If this red line is breached, Malaysians must be ready to stand up and be counted on the streets to defend our beloved Malaysia.

Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH