The Committee on Institutional Reforms only has 60 days to submit their recommendations to the new government through the Council of Eminent Persons.
In the committee’s first press conference since its formation yesterday, they said some of the key institutions they would examine include the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the Election Commission (EC), the MACC, the judiciary and the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and the police force.
This is especially important as key institutions in the country have suffered a “public crisis” and “erosion of independence” which has damaged good governance such as separation of powers and rule of law, the committee said.
“There is a need to strengthen the rule of law. How? By strengthening the institutions and the checks and balances that underpin a democratic system.
“At the moment we have the institution of the AGC and the public prosecutor. We also need to look into the judiciary and the set up of the judicial appointment commission.
“(Also) enforcement agencies which include the police force and we have the MACC and the EC (which is) very, very important also,” said retired Court of Appeal judge KC Vohrah at the press conference held at Ilham Tower in Kuala Lumpur today.
The conference was also attended by the four other members of the committee, namely, retired Court of Appeal judge and Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Mah Weng Kwai, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) president and retired brigadier general Mohd Arshad Raji, National Human Rights Society (Hakam) chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan and Universiti Malaya law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi.
In order to prepare their recommendation, Vohrah said the committee will examine key institutions to identify shortcomings and the adequacy of the checks and balances as well as the independence of the institutions.
They will also study laws which do not accord to the rule of law and if necessary, suggest to repeal or amend these laws to bring them in line with the rule of law.
The committee will also have to consult all relevant stakeholders who will be invited to brief the committee on their recommendations for reforms, he added.
“Some of the reforms we may suggest may involve amending the constitution but there is quite a number which won’t involve amending the Federal Constitution.
“Quite possibly (some will be) structural changes, not constitutional,” said Ambiga.
Other issues the committee may look into include the delay in setting up Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as well as other “draconian laws” such as the Anti-Fake News Act.
“That (Anti-Fake News Act) is something we are gonna look at. We all have our individual views.
“But I think we are looking at having it repealed in total,” Ambiga said.
The committee is also going to look into positions where only the prime minister can recommend and see if those positions can be made more independent of the executive, she added.
Vohrah said one of the things they intend to examine is the JAC, which he described as being very “top-heavy”.
The current members of the JAC include Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif, Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin, the Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop as well as the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, among others.
“In the English system... you’ve got two or three judges and the rest are laypeople. I think that’s what we should be moving towards.
“The last thing you want is political interference or executive interference in the judiciary.
“What requires to be done would be actually to get right people as judges,” Vohrah said.
The JAC also has to submit names to the prime minister who has the right to keep asking for more names, which is tantamount to rejecting the original proposals, he said.
“In England, if the authority rejects the names that were submitted, he or she has to give reasons for the rejection,” he said.