Returning the institutions of state to the Rakyat : The way forward

Posted on May 16, 2018

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many-colours-one-dreamIMG-20180512-WA0040First, I want to congratulate the Council of Elders for very quickly putting in place a Committee on Institutional Reforms, as reported in Malaysiakini.

“Economic reforms on its own cannot bring about the desired change unless accompanied by institutional reforms. Towards this end, a committee on institutional reforms has been formed…,”, the council is reported to have explained.

The individuals making up the committee, in my view, reflects the new government’s seriousness in effecting much needed reforms to our institutions of state.

Retired Court of Appeal judge KC Vohrah, Retired Court of Appeal judge and Suhakam commissioner, Mah Weng Kwai, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) president, Brigadier General (Ret) Mohd Arshad Raji, Ambiga Sreenevasan and Universiti Malaya law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi.

Gives me much reason for hope.

Now, imagine we wake up later this morning to the news that, overnight, another 4 top officials have ‘retired’.

Way to go!

The nation is now without a chairman of the Election Commission, an Attorney General, a Chief Justice and a President of the Court of Appeal.

Can’t have those positions vacant for too long.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon in discussions with a few close friends on who we thought might best take up office to fill these vacancies.

On the last two, whilst a few names came up for serious consideration, we could not come round to agreeing on any one name for each of those positions, but we were agreed on one thing.

The individuals to be appointed to the position of Chief Justice and President should not be judges from the Court of Appeal or from the Federal Court.

Get senior lawyers from the Bar who are acknowledged by their peers as individuals of unquestionable integrity.

On the position of chairman of EC and AG, one name came up, and was most enthusiastically discussed.

Ambiga.

After much discussion and going back and forth, we came to a consensus.

Ambiga, Chairperson of the Election Commission.

It simply made sense.

What reforms would be needed?

Obviously, to ensure the complete independence of the Election Commission, but the end objective, in my view, ought to be to make the 15th GE as level a playing field as possible for all candidates, be it from the government or opposition parties.

Ambiga was the chairperson of Bersih 2.0 from late 2009 until late 2013.

She actively represented Bersih 2.0 at the People’s Tribunal on Malaysia’s 13th GE, that looked into and reported on the various shortcomings that were observed during the 13th GE.

I cannot think of anyone else who is more qualified to undertake the clean up of the Commission and a comprehensive overhaul of our electoral process.

That left only the office of the AG.

After Ambiga, only one other name came up for consideration.

Gobind.

We noted the view that the appointee should not have any political party affiliation, the concern being the possibility of selective prosecutions as we witnessed during the BN era.

However, we also took on board a proposal to introduce reforms so as to separate the prosecutorial functions from that of the role of legal advisor to the federal government that is presently undertaken by the AG.

This may, of course, take some time.

We also noted that in the next 6 months to 1 year, the appointee is going to be busy looking through the mess left by the outgoing government, to establish if crimes have been committed, to draw up charges, and oversee their prosecution in the courts.

The appointee has to be someone who will have the stamina to undertake this work, will be able to withstand the pressure that will go with the job, and will be able to discharge the duties of that office, fearlessly, and without favour.

It was easy for me to give my vote here.

If Karpal was with us today, no questions asked, it would be Karpal for AG.

Gobind, where it most matters, is a chip of the old block.

Ambiga and Gobind will get the job done.

Mr Prime Minister, sir, I would be obliged if you would give due consideration in relation hereto.

Way forward