KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 ― De facto law minister Nancy Shukri has the right to request the Attorney-General (AG) to reconsider his decision not to prosecute Datuk Ibrahim Ali over his alleged threat to burn Christian bibles, lawyers said today.
They said, however, that AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was not obliged to do as the Cabinet wished because the public prosecutor must, theoretically, act independently from the Cabinet. The AG is part of the executive branch and not the judiciary.
“The Cabinet can ask to review, but the AG as public prosecutor is not bound to follow,” civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan told Malay Mail Online yesterday.
“Of course, I must stress that this is all in theory. Because if you look at the prosecutions by the public prosecutor, it does give rise to perception that there is selective prosecution,” he added.
A recent string of arrests and prosecutions under the Sedition Act 1948 has mainly targeted opposition lawmakers and activists critical of the government.
On Saturday,Nancy was reported as saying that it would be tantamount to “meddling” if she told the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to review its decision not to pursue charges against Perkasa president Ibrahim,
She was quoted by news portal Malaysiakini as saying the AGC is an independent agency and as minister, it is not her job to influence its decisions.
Nancy had, in a recent written parliamentary reply to Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng, said Ibrahim was not charged over his threat to burn Malay-language bibles because the police had concluded that the Malay rights group leader was merely defending the sanctity of Islam, and had not intended to create religious chaos with his statement.
Constitutional lawyer Edmund Bon similarly said the Cabinet could ask the AG to review the decision not to charge Ibrahim, who was investigated under Section 298 of the Penal Code that prohibits wounding the religious feelings of another, but that Gani has full discretion to decide on the matter.
“Cabinet can ask AG. AG is independent,” Bon told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
He added that the AG is part of the executive branch and not the judiciary, as claimed by Nancy.
Nancy told Parliament earlier this month that Malaysia upholds the doctrine of the separation of powers and that the government does not interfere with the AGC, in response to a question by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on why the Sedition Act was still in force.