KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — The Attorney-General (AG) does not have absolute power in deciding whether or not to press charges and his decisions can be questioned in the courts, prominent lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said today.
Ambiga said there was no such thing as an “absolute power in a democracy” and asserted that the AG’s discretion still has to be exercised reasonably and after taking into account proper factors.
“And we have now a case, which is the Rosli Dahlan case, decided by Justice Vazeer, upheld by the Court of Appeal, that the AG’s discretion can be questioned, it is not absolute, it is open to review,” the former Bar Council president told reporters when met at the court complex.
Ambiga was referring to senior lawyer Rosli Dahlan’s lawsuit against the then AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and 10 others, where High Court judge Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera had in 2014 said the country’s public prosecutors do not have “absolute immunity” from lawsuits when it involves allegations of power abuse and bad faith.
Ambiga disagreed with Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, who yesterday claimed that the AG’s discretionary powers are absolute and cannot be challenged by any authority, including the courts.
Ambiga also disagreed with AG Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali’s reported claim today that it would be against the Federal Constitution to question his decisions.
“If you look at the court case approved by the Court of Appeal, it doesn’t say so, it says otherwise, it is not unconstitutional to question the AG,” she said.
Ambiga said she believes both the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and any Malaysian with sufficient interest would be able to file for judicial review or a civil lawsuit to challenge Apandi’s decision to close the cases of SRC International Sdn Bhd and the RM2.6 billion donation in the prime minister’s accounts.
“It is your legal right, because he’s acting on our behalf and he’s exercising a discretion and because what he has disclosed so far shows no basis to close the file,” she said, highlighting that the AG remains accountable to Malaysians as his prosecution decisions are made in the public’s interests.
“I mean sometimes you can’t reveal everything but in this case it’s hardly anything, they have to reveal enough. And as I say if all the documentation proves innocence, disclose,” she said.
On Tuesday, Apandi announced that he has found no evidence of wrongdoing in the corruption probes on SRC International, a unit formerly owned by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and the transfer of a RM2.6 billion donation into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s private accounts.
He added that he will return the investigation papers to the MACC and instruct them to close the cases.