In Malaysia, AG alone decides who to prosecute, Dr M claims

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said ordinary Malaysians have no avenue to speak out if they felt the AG’s verdict had been biased.  — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said ordinary Malaysians have no avenue to speak out if they felt the AG’s verdict had been biased. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — While other countries have various people or agencies that decide who to haul to court for crimes, in Malaysia it is the “personal wish” of the Attorney-General, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed today.

The former prime minister said the AG, playing the role of both judge and prosecutor, can also choose not to prosecute an individual if the crime involves his superior.

“It is the personal wish of AG... if AG decides it should go to court, it goes to court.

“If AG sees a horrendous crime involving billions of dollars but it involves someone above him, then he can decide he is not going to take to court, then there is nothing you can do,” he said during his keynote address at the 2nd annual Malaysia’s War on Corruption Symposium here today.

Dr Mahathir disagreed, however, with the use of the law in this manner, saying ordinary Malaysians have no avenue to speak out if they felt the AG’s verdict had been biased.

“If he makes the wrong decision, there is nothing you can do,” he added.

The longest-serving prime minister suggested that a set of criteria be created to determine if a case is heard in court or otherwise, instead on relying solely on the whim of the AG.

“But what is most necessary is to define and give certain criteria whether a case should go to court or not and if the criteria is thought of as being there, then the case should go [to] court, not just (based on) the personal wish of the AG,” he said.

He added that the current system, which he said gives the AG full discretion, essentially disregards the “enormity” of a crime.

Speaking on stemming corruption in Malaysia, Dr Mahathir also said that a lavish lifestyle is often an indication of corruption, adding that the courts’ recognising that as evidence may help in fighting corruption.

“The court should accept the evidence of lavish lifestyle as sufficient to take action on anyone suspected of being corrupt.

“If you have this happening, less chance of people in high places to become corrupt,” he said.

He added that it was crucial to weed out corruption among the country’s top government officials in order to rid Malaysia of graft altogether by ensuring everyone is subjected to the same anti-corruption laws.

“If you have at the top people who are corrupt, then the whole country will be corrupt.

“Fact is, in a corrupt society, it’s the small fish that gets caught and the big fish gets away with it. But how do you prevent this? He should be subject to the same laws as everyone else,” Malaysia’s fourth prime minister said.

Dr Mahathir has been one of the most vocal critics of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, repeatedly calling for the latter’s resignation especially after a report by US-based paper Wall Street Journal last July claimed that Najib had received some RM2.6 billion in his personal account.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission later said the money was a donation from Middle Eastern donors, but did not reveal their identities.