AG - Why he did not attend Consensus Against Corruption Conference

Speech - 1997 Supplementary Supply Estimates Bill 1997
(Comm. Stage - Finance Ministry)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Wednesday):
On Monday, I had raised the absence of the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah at the Consensus Against Corruption Conference last Saturday although he was scheduled to be a panellist, as it raised the disturbing question whether the Chief Law Officer of the country was not in support of the all-out war against corruption.

I have received a letter of clarification from the Attorney-General explaining that he was on leave and out of the country from 16th June to 14th July 1997, and that he first heard of such a Conference when he returned for duty. He checked and was informed that no letter of invitation to the Conference was received by his office.

When on 15th July, he read in the New Straits Times the comment of the Chairman of the Backbenchersí Club, Ruhanie Ahmad that the Attorney-General had "yet to confirm attendance", and when he ascertained that there was still no letter of invitation, he instructed his Special Officer, Encik Tun Abdul Majid bin Tun Hamzah, to contact the conference organisers for the invitation and particulars of the Conference.

On 16th July, he faxed a reply to the Conference organisers stating that he was unable to attend the Conference to be one of the speakers of the topic "Eradicating Corruption - the Way Forward" as he had a prior commitment.

I thank the Attorney-General for his clarification that he had not committed the discourtesy of ignoring the invitation and making the Conference to wait for him, not knowing whether he would turn up or not.

However, if the Attorney-General could not attend such an important Conference because of prior commitments, he should have sent a top officer to represent him.

I do not know what actually happened leading to the Conference organisers not knowing that the Attorney-General would not be able to attend, and I apologise for any improper inference for his absence, but reiterate that the war against corruption is finally about transparency and accountability in government - which are the antithesis of corruption and that the Attorney-General must set an example in accountabililty and transparency to restore publlic confidence in the fairness and reasonableness of his office - in particular on the grave issue of selective prosecutions.

The rule of law requires that prosecutions on behalf of the state be conducted fairly and reasonably and that prosecutors perform their professional duties in a transparently independent fashion.

Is the Attorney-General prepared to have a meeting with MPs to discuss this important aspect of accountability and transparency of his office - which undoubtedly is one of the concerns of multi-media/IT companies which want to invest in the MSC.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong