Gani cannot delay any longer his response to the avalanche of legitimate criticisms to his appointment which mushroomed from the very moment his appointment was announced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim last Monday and have continued to snowball without any let-up - unless Gani has changed his mind and decided to keep his silence!
Gani should realise that in the modern era which gives particular emphasis to good governance, the principles and practice of openness, accountability and transparency are key benchmarks of a good public servant.
For this reason, Gani should not only clear himself of two serious allegations made against him for obstruction of justice - threatening Anwar Ibrahim’s former tennis partner Datuk S. Nallakaruppan to fabricate evidence against Anwar and shielding the Minister for International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz from prosecution on five charges of corruption - and public reservations about his commitment to a new era of public confidence in the system and cause of justice in Malaysia after the dark judicial and legal age of recent past, he should also give a satisfactory accounting on various burning issues stemming from his past record as the Head of Prosecution Division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
One glaring case which cries out for explanation from Gani is why there had been no cross-appeal by the Public Prosecutor against former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s extremely lenient sentence of two months’ jail for the crime of assaulting a defenceless, blindfolded and handcuffed Anwar Ibrahim to within an inch of his life in the Bukit Aman police headquarters lock-up when he was first arrested in September 1998.
There were widespread nation-wide feelings that justice had not been fully done when it was finally known that Rahim Noor had only to serve a two-month jail sentence for his brutal assault of Anwar Ibrahim, giving not only the Deputy Prime Minister but Malaysia a “black eye” in the world.
Even the Court of Appeal which rejected Rahim Noor’s appeal against conviction found the two-month jail sentence to be ‘lenient”.
In his judgement, Court of Appeal judge Datuk Shaik Daud Mohd Ismail described Rahim’s act as “despicable and inhuman, to say the least”, “the worst act of indiscipline in a disciplined force”, “stooped to the lowest level” when he should be “a role model to the force”.
Shaik Daud said:
“On the facts and circumstances of this case, we think the sentence by the sessions judge is on the lenient side.
“For reasons best known to him which we cannot comprehend, the public prosecutor chose not to appeal on sentence to this court.
“It is, however, not the practice of the Appellate Court to impose its own sentence on that of the trial court.
“We would, however, like to take this opportunity to remind the lower courts that they should take the case of police officers assaulting members of the public very seriously.
“Be he of whatever rank, if found guilty of assaulting a member of the public, more so an arrested person as in this case, the court should send a message of the public abhorrence of such act by coming down hard on him.
“Nothing short of a custodial sentence would suffice.”
Or was his recommendation for a cross-appeal against sentence made in his capacity as Head of Prosecution Division overruled by the Attorney-General at the time, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah?
Under the Constitution, the Attorney-General is vested with sole discretionary prosecutorial powers to “institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence” [Article 145(3)], which should be immune from any executive interference, even from the Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, in the recent past, public confidence in the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the office of Attorney-General plunged to an all-time low when there was a spate of selective prosecutions against government critics and dissent.
Gani’s explanation as to why there had been no cross-appeal against the extremely lenient sentence imposed on Rahim Noor when he held the important and powerful office of Head of Prosecution Division in the Attorney-General’s Chambers would go a long way to influence public opinion on the propriety and wisdom of his appointment as the new Attorney-General - whether he could be relied upon to demonstrate the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the office of Attorney-General in exercising the sole discretionary powers of prosecution vested by the Constitution immune from any executive interference and free from any selective prosecutions.
I had called on Parliament to do its duty to summon Gani to appear before it to establish his credentials, credibility and suitability for the high office of Attorney-General. Questions have since been raised as to whether Parliament has the powers to issue such summons. The answer is very simple. As all Parliamentary Select Committees, like the Public Accounts Committee, have powers under the Parliamentary Standing Orders “to send for persons, documents or papers” [Standing Order 83(1)], Parliament clearly has the powers to summon Gani to appear before it, either before a Special Select Committee or before the full House of Parliament sitting as a Committee to clear himself of serious public doubts about the suitability, propriety and wisdom of his appointment as the new Attorney-General.
If Gani is not prepared to appear before Parliament to vindicate himself, Parliament should adopt a formal motion to object to the appointment of Gani as the new Attorney-General to ensure that the few small steps taken in the past year to restore public confidence in the administration of justice are not undermined and destroyed.
In making such a demand, Parliament will not be questioning the appointment
of the Yang di Pertuan Agong, as no such appointment has yet been made
- as Ainum is legally still the Attorney-General until the end of the year
- but only
discharging its duty as the highest political forum in the country to protect the best national interests. Parliament will be committing a gross dereliction of duty if the controversy over Gani’s appointment as the new Attorney-General swirls all over the country but does not enter the chambers of Parliament.