The Attorney General Must Act Against Ministers Who Flout The Law And The Police Who Turn A Blind Ey
1. EDICT shares the exasperation of the public over the outrages which are being committed by the government during the period of Movement Control Order which began on 18 March.
2. The government – without approval of parliament – has in effect decided that the punishment for violation of the MCO is imprisonment – although the law provides alternative punishments. Though not in the form of a written directive to the courts, the signal is clear: the creation of 13 new detention centres has commenced. Offenders will be imprisoned.
3. We have previously pointed out MCO violations by Minister Zuraida and by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin. Zuraida addressed a public assembly and Muhyiddin went shopping with his wife.
4. Yesterday, there are reports of Deputy Health Minister Dato’ Sri Noor Azmi Ghazali, and the Menteri Besar (MB) of Terengganu Dato' Seri Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, violating the MCO. There were also earlier reports of Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri flouting the MCO.
5. There are photos of Noor Azmi and others eating together during a visit to a Tahfiz school. There are photos of a group who went Ahmad Samsuri on a social visit to a former MB. There are photos of Zulkifli having a group meeting to discuss publication of a book. It is inconceivable that they were providing any gazetted essential service.
6. The cases of offenders being fined and jailed now run into the thousands. Yet, no action has been taken against the Ministers and Deputy Ministers. According to a news report, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri, the public face of the National Security Council, has said “leave it to the police to investigate” since police reports have been made against some of them.
7. Partly in anticipation of just such “above the law” behaviour by politicians, the Federal Constitution, in Article 145, paragraph 2, requires the Attorney General to advise “the Cabinet or any Minister” on legal matters. Paragraph 3, gives the AG power to institute proceedings for offences.
8. The intent of Article 145 is, amongst other things, to ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law, even those who wield executive and legislative power.
9. Since the “punishment” of “handcuff, remand and imprison” has been meted out to thousands, including the abject poor, why are ministers spared? Shouldn’t the AG advise the ministers they have contravened the MCO? Shouldn’t the AG instruct the police to “give them the treatment”? Isn’t that warranted under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which assures equal treatment under the law?
10. Yet, amidst the public furore over the flouting of the law and the “don’t see politicians, don’t hear complaints about them” approach of the police, there has been no comment by the AG.
11. We call upon members of the government, from the Prime Minister down, to lead by example and offer themselves to the police for arrest, handcuff, remand, and subsequent prosecution. We call upon the AG to explain his silence.
19 April 2020