Didn’t Pakatan change AGs, get a pardon for Anwar, Azalina asks Bersih
UMNO lawmaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, under fire from Government, opposition and civil society leaders over her recent remarks about who should be the attorney-general (AG), said her critics have “missed the point”.
(Focus Malaysia) – In particular, the Pengerang MP singled out the Coalition of Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) and its chairman Thomas Fann, who reportedly criticised Azalina for “changing her stand” on non-interference in the judiciary during a recent special UMNO briefing.
Fann also noted that Azalina had previously wished to separate the roles of the AG as legal adviser to the Government and his concurrent function as the public prosecutor, following the former de facto law minister’s reported call for the prime minister to appoint the AG from among orang dia (his people) to “make matters easier”.
In response, Azalina said her reported remark had “nothing to do” with her “dearly-held” stand on the separation of powers between the judiciary, executive and legislature, as well as her view that the AG and public prosecutor must be separate roles.
“A former law practitioner since 1990 and a lawmaker since 2004, I would be the last to condone any intervention of the judiciary by the executive or legislature,” she said in a statement last night (Aug 29).
“In my speech and thoughts, I merely held dear to the maxim of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as a basic rule of natural justice.”
Addressing the “elephant in the room”, Azalina clarified that while she said the recent sentencing of Datuk Seri Najib Razak would “not be the last” among UMNO leaders and blamed this on current AG Tan Sri Idrus Harus, she never asked for Najib to be freed or for his remaining charges to be dropped.
The “crux” of her speech on Saturday (Aug 27), she explained, was on the legal rights of an individual to defend themselves in court, appeal their case and adduce new evidence, following Najib’s final appeal in the SRC International corruption case where the Federal Court rejected his lead counsel’s request to discharge himself or the defence’s fresh evidence bid.
“Let’s not forget that the prosecution represents the Government, and therefore YB Pekan’s (Najib) appeal is technically objected to by the Government,” she added. “The AG is the counsel to the Government and, therefore, is the only person who can support any application (to object).”
“Guilty until proven innocent?”
She asked if Bersih has a different legal maxim for UMNO/Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians who are charged in court – i.e. “guilty until proven innocent” – instead of adhering to the principle that every latitude must be given to an accused person to defend their case and themselves.
She also noted that PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim received a royal pardon over his sodomy conviction and was released seven days after Pakatan Harapan (Pakatan) secured victory during the 14th General Elections (GE14).
Pakatan had also appointed a new attorney-general (AG), Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, Azalina noted, and asked Bersih if it did not consider Tommy to be orang Pakatan.
“Did you just move the goalpost? Pakatan’s prime minister changed the AG and so did Perikatan Nasional’s prime minister, but a prime minister from UMNO/Barisan Nasional (BN) cannot change or replace the AG? Double standards, I reckon,” she said.