Should the powers of the PM be curtailed?

Image from The Star

By John Isaac

Should the powers of the Prime Minister be curtailed to avoid unilateral appointments of key law enforcement officers?

According to retired judge, Gopal Sri Ram, one possibility could be to amend the Federal Constitution.

This, he said would ensure the prime minister did not run foul of any written law for not officially consulting his Cabinet members or a parliamentary select committee.

“For example, there must be an amendment to the constitution to state that no appointment shall take effect unless confirmed by a select committee in the Dewan Rakyat,” he said.

The former Federal Court judge said this following the controversial appointment of Latheefa Koya as the new chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

On Wednesday, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he had not consulted his Cabinet ministers about the appointment as he wanted to be free to make the choice without being “restricted” by their opinions.

William Leong, the chairman of the parliamentary select committee on public appointments, said he too was in the dark about the matter until the appointment was revealed through the media.

Sri Ram said a careful study of the constitution would reveal that the appointments of the auditor-general, judges to superior civil courts, and the Election Commission chairman and members must be made after consultation with the Conference of Rulers.

“However, such consultation with any other party, even for the position of the attorney-general (AG), is not provided for in the constitution,” he added.

According to reports in Free Malaysia Today, when it comes to appointing the AG, he said, Article 145 (1) only states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall, on the advice of the prime minister, appoint a person who is qualified to be a judge of the Federal Court.

Similarly, Section 5 of the MACC Act states that the king shall appoint the chief commissioner on the advice of the prime minister for a certain period on terms specified in the contract.

There is also no provision in the constitution and the Police Act 1967 that the prime minister must consult third parties in appointing the inspector-general of police (IGP).

Article 132 (2A) merely states that public servants who are appointed through commissions hold office at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The appointment of the IGP is approved by the Police Force Commission.

Meanwhile, lawyer SN Nair said the appointments of the AG, MACC chief and IGP are key to assisting the executive arm of the government to enforce law and order.

“The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must strive to amend the constitution by persuading the opposition to give their support as a two-thirds majority is needed in the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara,” he said.