Saturday, November 22, 2008

ABDULLAH BADAWI : time is running out.

Time running out for Abdullah to reform judiciary

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has placed judicial reform at the top of his must-do list before handing over power to his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak next March. But unless he pushes for sweeping changes at the Attorney-General's Chamber, the powerful office of the Malaysian government's chief legal adviser and prosecutor, lawyers and political analysts say Abdullah's pledge will join the long list of unfulfilled promises that has come to distinguish his premiership.

“The government needs to review the vast scope of the AG's powers and bring more transparency to the office. Without this, whatever reforms will be cosmetic at best,” says Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the country's former de facto Law Minister. He resigned from the Cabinet recently because of the opposition he faced from within the government to bring about reforms in the judiciary and the national legal system.

Unease over the AG Chambers is a widely share sentiment among many Malaysians. But that these things are now being said by a one-time member of the Abdullah administration underscores the growing concerns over the country's justice system.

Close associates of Abdullah say the Premier is aware that he needs to push for an overhaul of the AG's Chambers. But, like Zaid, he, too, is facing opposition from several senior Cabinet members and the current Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, associates say.

“The PM knows what needs to be done but he has yet to indicate how far he plans to go with the overhaul of the AG's office,” says a close associate of Abdullah, who has been involved in private discussions about judicial reforms.

The powers of the AG have long been a subject of debate, particularly because he has the sole discretion to initiate or discontinue legal proceedings in any case other than religious ones.

These powers, coupled with his role as the government's chief legal adviser, have often led to accusations of conflict of interest, especially in cases where the AG must decide whether to institute criminal proceedings against members of government.

The political dimensions of several high-profile cases in Malaysia over the past decade — such as the cases against opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — have led critics to allege that the government has used the AG's Chambers to go after its opponents. Time running out for Abdullah to reform judiciary
The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia

Abdullah: No objection to Wanita Umno contest
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi does not object to a contest between Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil for the leadership of Wanita Umno in the March party elections.
"Now that there is a contest, as both have come up with their respective statements and are eager to challenge each other, it must be done according to the process of democracy and in the best possible manner," the prime minister and Umno president said. Abdullah: No objection to Wanita Umno contest
New Straits Times, Malaysia

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