Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wednesday he believed the tabling of the Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption and Judicial Appointments Commission bills will not only put the people at ease but also investors.
He said the two bills were important because the people and politicians’ perception of the government was that it was not serious about combating the scourge of corruption.
“When there is a negative perception like this, it will also influence investors, businessmen and industrialists. They will certainly be uneasy about investing their money if they think corruption is rife.
“A less than satisfactory judiciary also can erode the nation’s competitiveness,” he said.
Abdullah said he was also informed that there were cases of joint ventures where foreign investors put it as a condition in their agreements that any conflicts must be resolved in the courts of a third country.
Abdullah said these developments reflected badly on the country and the two bodies (Anti-Corruption Agency and Judiciary) had become the targets of unhealthy perception.
He said he was also aware various views, stands, attitudes and perceptions would arise but what was important was the approach taken by the government after taking into consideration the inputs given before the two bills were tabled.
“It will be well received by all. We hope to allay the doubts of the people,” he said.
He said if the Members of Parliament focused their energies on the two bills (tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat today), both could be passed before the year ended.
The question of how long it would debated would be determined by the Speaker, he said.
Asked what were the strengths of the commissions, he said there were advisory councils, special committees and complaints committees where anyone not satisfied could lodge complaints regarding the actions or conduct of the commissioners except if it is of a criminal nature.
He said in the case of the MCAC, the power to prosecute had also been lowered to the Deputy Public Prosecutor level since October without having to refer to the Attorney-General.
Asked why this was not stated in the bill concerned and there was no change from previously, he said what was stated were only general provisions and this was beneficial as it could help address major problems should they arise.
“Should such a situation occur, the Attorney-General can step in but this does not mean he will always interfere. It’s more administrative,” he said.
As such, he said there were plans to beef up the commission with some 5,000 personnel including forensic audit specialists over the next five years.
He said the MCAC would have a new service scheme with attractive salaries and incentives which would attract more people to join it since it would be a commission with a much higher credibility.
On the powers of the Prime Minister in the JAC, he said the Prime Minister’s powers to make judicial appointments were not abolished but any appointment would be more transparent.
“We have not changed the prerogative of the Prime Minister in the judiciary bill under Article 122, but as PM he obviously will be able to vet the names given.
“The powers of the prime minister cannot be done away with just because there is this commission. The PM must also have a say. This is not a problem,” he said.
The commission’s members will also give their inputs before the names are forwarded to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Conference of Rulers,” he said.
He said experienced lawyers, if they had confidence and were proud of the nation’s judiciary, could also join the JAC.
Abdullah said the setting up of the JAC would help overcome difficulties in appointing judges besides strenghtening the judiciary and improving its credibility.
When asked about whether he was trying to leave a legacy by tabling the two bills, he said:” I do not want to talk about legacy. What I want to do is what needs to be done. Something has to be done. I should have done it in the last four years.
Replying to a reporter’s question, Abdullah said he had not heard of Barisan Nasional MPs not in favour of the two bills.
He added that the bill on the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) which he raised in 2004 would be addressed next year.