PETALING JAYA, Oct 5 — Electoral watchdog Bersih and 48 other civil society organisations (CSOs) have today called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to affirm his commitment to reform, following the decision to not continue charges against Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Pointing to how Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor may be next to escape punishment, the groups among others called for a moratorium on any applications for discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) or total acquittals in cases involving politicians.
“In the 15th general elections (GE15), the two main coalitions Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) campaigned on a platform of anti-corruption and they won most of the votes, 68 per cent. Almost 70 per cent of voters in GE15 voted for a clean government.
“Basically Malaysians are sick and tired of systemic corruption that has been so much part of our country and we want a government that is committed to a clean government,” Bersih chairman Thomas Fann told a press conference.
The group presented four demands to the Anwar administration, with the moratorium to be imposed until the dual roles of the attorney general (AG) as a public prosecutor and the government’s legal adviser are separated.
Other demands included for the government to declare that the separation will take place before 2024 ends, to reopen DNAA cases of politicians charged with corruption or to recharge them, and to not withdraw all ongoing appeals by allowing them to lapse.
Bersih has also launched an online petition for the matter on Change.org, which can be found here.
Those who backed the statement today included: Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim), Aliran, All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged), EMPOWER, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and Undi18.
Zahid, who is also Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, faced 47 charges in the Yayasan Akalbudi case, namely, 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to over RM31 million of his charitable organisation’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges of over RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.
The Attorney General’s Chambers had last month defended its move to discontinue the trial of 47 corruption charges against Zahid, saying that the prosecution had argued for cogently.
Last month, Anwar denied that he had a hand in Zahid’s DNAA, saying that the decision was made by the AG who had been appointed by PN chairman and former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
On December 3, 2022, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said upon her appointment said her law and institutional reform portfolio’s foremost focus is to make the necessary amendments to laws to make them relevant to our times, citing the separation of power of the AG and public prosecutor to preserve the independence of the public prosecutor’s discretion as an example.
On August 18, Azalina was reported saying that the Federal Constitution and about 19 existing laws would have to be amended to implement the proposed separation of powers between the AG and the public prosecutor, and that it would also involve additional government spending.
Last month, legal experts explained to Malay Mail why is it important to split up the AG’s dual roles, why is it necessary, and how might Malaysia actually achieve this. Read more about this here.
(First published by The Malay Mail on 5 October 2023: https://www.malaymail.com/amp/news/malaysia/2023/10/05/worried-najib-and-rosmah-may-go-off-scot-free-civil-societies-call-for-moratorium-on-dnaa-and-acquittals-until-ags-dual-roles-split/94531)