Our parliamentary democracy is built on the principle of ‘check and balance’ of the executive who have been elected by the people. Independent institutions have the role of preventing abuse of power in public office and taking appropriate action on wrongdoers. Public accountability and good governance are an integral part of human rights and citizens’ action which are guaranteed by our Federal Constitution.
Malaysian policies and legislation has established independent mechanisms which have a public duty to safeguard and protect public interest. These institutions include the attorney-general, the auditor-general, the inspector-general of police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.
They are to undertake independent monitoring, investigation, inquiry, and assessment and identify wrongdoers who then must be prosecuted.
The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia (Proham) recognises that action or in action by the executive is weakening both parliamentary democracy and good governance in Malaysian society. Collective action is urgently needed to reverse this trend in the public interest.
As we reflect on three current issues in Malaysian society, Proham is deeply concerned for the state of democracy, human rights and public accountability in Malaysia society.
First, the civil action by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the United States on July 20, 2016 raises questions to why similar actions were not undertaken by our national institutions which had been undertaking different enquires. The US DOJ has filed a civil lawsuit seeking to seize assets that it claims were embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad by certain individuals who have been named.
In contrast, the authorities in Malaysia are yet to take action on Shahrol Azral, the former CEO of 1MDB who had been singled out by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee as per the PAC report (2016:pg 105) which was released on April 7, 2016. Follow-up action to the PAC report is urgently needed to restore public confidence and bring wrong doers to justice.
Second, the coming to effect of the National Security Council Act and its provisions have major restrictions to human rights in security areas. This, too, further enhances executive powers. There are already sufficient laws to ensure the safety and security of the nation.
Third, the proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976 will greatly impact the independence of the Malaysian Bar. This, too, is viewed as restricting fundamental rights to voice out the abuses by the executive.
Proham urges on the Malaysian executive to adhere to international governance standards and compliance to fundamental liberties. An immediate stop must be put on any action or inaction which will compromise the integrity of the independent institutions. Failure to do this will see a further erosion of public confidence both nationally and globally of the current administration of Malaysia.
KUTHUBUL ZAMAN BUKHARI is chairperson and DR DENISON JAYASOORIA is seretary-general of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia (Proham).