C4 Centre: A-G should be transparent when charges against high profile individuals are discontinued

KUALA LUMPUR: The Attorney-General (A-G) should commit to full transparency, particularly in cases of high-profile criminal prosecutions where charges are discontinued, said the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Centre).

It also called on the government to expedite the separation of the offices of the A-G and public prosecutor.

"In tandem with the separation of the offices of the A-G and public prosecutor, the government should draft prosecutorial guidelines to steer the conduct of prosecutors in a fair and uniform manner.

"The absence of clear guidelines governing prosecutorial discretion, alternative measures such as the publication of reasons are imperative to secure public confidence," it said in a statement today.

The C4 Centre made this statement in response to A-G Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh's statement yesterday that the Attorney-General's Chambers (A-GC) is not obligated to inform the public of its decision to discontinue charges against an accused person.

Ahmad Terrirudin said the power to initiate or discontinue a case was under the public prosecutor's discretion, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.

The C4 Centre said the public must be assured that all persons shall receive the same treatment regardless of their status.

It said when decisions are in conflict with this constitutional principle under Article 8, the A-G and public prosecutor should provide detailed reasons to justify their actions.

It expressed concern over the A-G's stance, citing instances over the past years where charges against politically connected individuals were withdrawn without adequate explanations.

It cited former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) and former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman's acquittal for corruption charges.

"The recent successful application for a DNAA in Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's Yayasan Akalbudi trial, where reasons to substantiate the application were only released following public outcry," it said.

It contended that A-G dismissal of any duty to provide reasons contradicts the core principles of transparency and good governance.

This approach, it said, raised concerns about the exercise of prosecutorial discretion under his leadership moving forward.

It said the A-G is appointed based on the prime minister's advice and automatically serves as the public prosecutor, and this suggested that decisions on prosecutions may be influenced by political considerations for key political figures.

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