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KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 ― The attorney-general who is also public prosecutor (PP) urgently needs to examine existing representation procedures in criminal cases, the Malaysian Bar said today after public uproar over the horrific death of a young Indonesian maid at her employer’s house in Penang.
Malaysian Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said while the PP’s initiative to provide clarity on the procedure is welcome, the said procedure may also jeopardise fairness and efficiency in criminal proceedings.
“In the wake of recent disquieting decisions to discontinue and/or withdraw proceedings in several high-profile cases, it is high time to overhaul the process,” he said in a statement.
Currently lawyers for an accused person write letters of representation to the prosecution at any stage of the trial process by either seeking a withdrawal of the charge or pleading to a lesser offence, with the prosecution then deciding whether to proceed further.
Indonesian maid Adelina Sao died of multiple organ failure just a day after she was rescued from her employer, S. Ambika’s house in Bukit Mertajam, Penang on February 10, 2018.
The authorities found the Indonesian migrant worker lying on the pavement outside the house next to the owners’ dog.
Ambika was charged with murder — an offence still punishable with death in Malaysia, though it is no longer mandatory — shortly after Adelina was rescued and died in hospital, but was subsequently pronounced not guilty by the High Court after the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) in charge decided not to pursue the case.
According to Abdul Fareed, the representation-seeking procedures were outlined through the issuance of a notice called Public Prosecutor’s Direction No. 2/2019 and dated May 3.
He said the new procedure for considering the representations for each and every case — which involves the Solicitor General III, Solicitor General II as well as Solicitor General — is “multi-layered” and will thus “take time”.
“Consequently, according to PPD 2/2019, there should be no adjournment of trials while representations are being deliberated upon; both should ‘run parallel’,” he said.
He said it would be highly impractical and also unfair for the trial to run concurrently with the process of considering representations as mounting a defence involves considerable cost — both financially and emotionally — to all parties involved.
Abdul Fareed proposed that the procedure of deliberating representation for cases involving death penalty and other cases be instead undertaken by committees.
For death penalty cases, Abdul Fareed suggested the committee to consist of high-ranking officials of the Attorney General’s Chambers.
For other cases, the committee would be comprised of Senior State DPPs and also senior officers from Putrajaya; alternatively a task force comprising State Legal Advisors, State Prosecution Directors, and several senior DPPs.
“This proposed procedure is more streamlined and efficient, and is anticipated to be less time-consuming.
“As such, the Attorney General’s Chambers should not object to a Deputy Public Prosecutor agreeing to a reasonable request for adjournment pending the outcome of a committee’s consideration of a representation,” he said.