King needs unfettered advice as attorney-general ‘biased’ towards PM, say royal insiders, legal expert
KUALA LUMPUR : The Yang di-Pertuan Agong and, by extension, the Conference of Rulers should have their own privy council capable of advising on legal matters, considering the main responsibility of the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).
Experts on the matter, ranging from lawyers to members of royal houses, acknowledged that it is high time the Agong has his own legal advisers to counter the AG in the event of a disagreement between Istana Negara and the executive body led by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
This, the experts noted, could lead to a conflict of interest for the AG.
Speaking to The Vibes, Perak Dewan Negara member Datuk Seri Mohd Annuar Zaini said the privy council can also advise the ruler on other matters pertaining to national governance, including security and the economy.
“He should have an independent council because the AG brings in the government’s view.
“Even if the government has a questionable view, the AG will defend that view. The same lawyer should not be giving the same advice to a different entity.
“The rulers must be able to make their own judgments. If he (the Agong) only listens to the AG, then there is no legal independent view.”
Annuar said a privy council should not just advise the Agong on the law, but also on the economy and other matters, including security.
“The king of Thailand has his own privy council that will assess what the government is presenting and advise the king. Their role is advisory to the king. In Perak, we have the Dewan Negara. It is equivalent to a privy council.”
The former Bernama chairman added that due to the AGC’s accountability and responsibility towards the ruling administration, even if the Agong believes that the ruling party is committing wrongdoing, the AG will still defend the government’s stance.
A senior law expert, who requested anonymity, shared Annuar’s perspective that the AG’s position is quite untenable, as conflicting situations will arise between the political executive and Agong.
Where does he (AG) stand? Article 145(2) of the federal constitution states that the AG’s duty is to advise the Agong, cabinet and any minister. How can that be so? Sometimes, the problem is between the prime minister and Agong.
“Istana Negara must have its own lawyers to advise them on matters such as this,” said the lawyer.
He was referring to the perceived conundrum faced by Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah when current AG Tan Sri Idrus Harun said the Agong must act upon the advice of the prime minister after His Majesty had decreed that Parliament must reconvene.
Following Idrus’ statement, members of the public had rallied behind the royal institution and lodged a report against the government’s top lawyer citing that he had committed “derhaka” (treason) against the ruler’s decree.
The legal eagle said there are many loopholes in the constitution favouring the PMO that must be addressed to ensure proper checks and balances in the country.
Meanwhile, a member of a royal household, who also requested anonymity, said a royal privy council for the Agong is urgently needed.
“Expert opinion in favour of this would be welcome. Furthermore, civil society has been arguing for the separation of the AG’s role for some time (i.e. legal adviser to government and public prosecutor).
“Another point is that the AG’s appointment should come under the Public Services Commission for public appointments, although this needs constitutional amendment,” said the royal, who is a leading voice for good governance and constitutional supremacy.