New Sunday Times reports today that Datuk Seri Ainum Mohd Saaid has tendered her resignation as Attorney-General citing health reasons, although another media report speculated that she was slated for promotion as Federal Court judge.
Whatever the reason, the vacancy of the office of the Attorney-General should re-open the issue as to whether the Attorney-General should be a political appointment with Cabinet status so that the Attorney-General could be directly answerable and accountable to Parliament, or whether it should be a judicial and legal service appointment divorced from partisan politics.
Malaysia started off with the system of Attorney-General who is a Cabinet Minister directly answerable and accountable to Parliament before it was replaced by a strictly non-political appointment from the judicial and legal service.
The problem with the latter arrangement is that Parliament could not exercise oversight in ensuring accountability and transparecy from the Attorney-General, and this creates a national crisis of confidence in the administration of justice when there are widespread public perceptions about gross abuse of powers by the Attorney-General in bending to the wishes of the powers-that-be.
The appointment of Ainum as Attorney-General has also broken the arrangement of the Attorney-General from the judicial and legal service, for Ainum had already left the government services before her appointment.
In the interests of greater parliamentary accountability and transparency, the appointment of the Attorney-General as a Cabinet appointment has considerable merits, provided the holder is a good Parliamentarian - unlike the present crop of Cabinet Ministers who are distinguished by their absence rather than presence in Parliament - and he or she steps down from all active political party positions so as not to comprise the impartiality and independence of the office.