Appointing AG: Difference between S’pore & USA, UK & Australia?

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I refer to the article “Indranee: ‘Perfectly acceptable’ for Attorney-Generals to be politicians in some countries” (Yahoo News, Mar 3).

It states that “Many countries see it as “perfectly proper” to have an Attorney-General (AG) who is a politician, said Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Law, Indranee Rajah on Friday (3 March).

Indranee was responding to comments by Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim in Parliament, who said that filling a constitutional post in an organ of state with a party politician is “not ideal”.

Speaking during the Committee of Supply (COS) debate, Lim referred to the recent appointment of former PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair as Deputy Attorney-General for a term of three years with effect from 1 March 2017.  Hri Kumar is the first ever former politician in Singapore to be appointed to the role.

Lim said the appointment “carries a risk of undermining public confidence in the AGC’s stated mission of fair and independent prosecutions, and it is a risk that is best avoided.”

But Indranee pointed out that it is ultimately the courts that decide on the verdict of a case. “While the AG takes a position on whether to prosecute, it is the court that eventually decides on innocence or guilt. That is why in many countries it is perfectly acceptable for the AG to be a politician,” she said.

Indranee cited examples of how politicians in other countries such as the UK, Australia and the US have AGs who are current politicians.  She said, “In the UK, the AG is a cabinet minister. He is also the chief legal advisor and also oversees the prosecution service. Australia has a similar system – the AG is a member of the legislature…In the US, the current AG…resigned from the Senate just before being appointed AG and continues to be a member of the Republican Party.”

Indranee also lauded Hri Kumar’s acceptance of the deputy AG position “despite the considerable personal and financial cost to him”.

“He also now earns significantly less than what he used to earn. We should be grateful that a person of such standing has agreed to dedicate himself to the public cause.””

Arguably, the difference between the USA, UK and Australia, may be that they are vibrant “non-one-party dominant” in Parliament – political systems.

Also, they may not have our arguably checkered historical record of “making life difficult” for the opposition. (Note: I am a resident of Aljunied – and thus may naturally have an interest in such matters)

Some examples may arguably be highlighted in some of the following, over the years:

Town councils’ controversies in history?” (Feb 12, 2017)

People’s Association is not partisan?” (Apr 14, 2016)

Which constituency has highest no. of “not upgraded” flats?” (Apr 6, 2016)

HDB rejects AHTC’s 3rd accountants? Foreign firm OK, local “No”?” (Jan 22, 2016)

Town councils’ report: Who is the real winner?” (Dec 1, 2015)

Aljunied transferred $20.5m to TIP fund?” (Nov 25, 2014)

Town councils: Another “half the story” clarification?” (Nov 21, 2014)

Town councils: Transparency & accountability? – Aljunied had $5.5m surplus in 2011?” (Nov 21, 2014)

Govt grants to Aljunied decreased 73% after PAP lost to WP?” (Nov 18, 2014)

Tanjong Pagar TC’s deficit 5 times more than Aljunied?” (Nov 17, 2014)

Aljunied’s surplus transferred to sinking fund when PAP lost to WP?” (Nov 16, 2014)

Why Aljunied always fail town councils’ report?” (Nov 4, 2014)

Strange things are happening in Singapore?” (Oct 21, 2014)

NEA: ‘No’ Especially (to) Aljunied?” (Oct 15, 2014)

Why don’t you sue my town council?” (Feb 15, 2014)

The alternative news in 1 day? (part 49) – Grassroots leader/PAP branch chairman?” (Feb 4, 2014)

The alternative news in 1 day? (part 47) – “Fixing” my town council?” (Feb 1, 2014)

The Great Singapore Sale? $2 only – As cheap as AIM!” (Jul 23, 2013)

Waive Parliamentary privilege: Remembering JBJ?” (Jul 12, 2013)

AIM debate in Parliament: (Round 6) – AHPE vs HBP?” (May 30, 2013)

NEA vs AHPETC: Who to believe?” (May 30, 2013)

MND responds to Workers’ Party” (May 28, 2013)

Highlights of the Debate on the MND Town Council Review Report” (May 27, 2013)

Revisiting questions on AIM?” (May 26, 2013)

AIM Review Report: So everything was OK?” (May 25, 2013)

AIM debate in Parliament: (Round 5) – Holland-Bukit also 46% higher than Tampines?” (May 19, 2013)

AIM debate in Parliament: MND vs WP (Round 3)?” (May 17, 2013)

AIM saga drags on – Tender $16.8 to $31.5m?” (May 14, 2013)

Could there have been no debate in Parliament on AIM?” (May 11, 2013)

Aim saga part 2 has just begun?” (Feb 21, 2013)

Interesting extracts from AIM’s incorporation M & A” (Jan 4, 2013)

Interesting extracts from available AIM’s financial statements” (Jan 4, 2013)

Town councils’ historical habit of answered questions?” (Dec 31, 2012)

Town councils’ software sold for peanuts?” (Dec 24, 2012)

What has Aljunied-Hougang TC’s IT system got to do with Changi airport?” (Dec 18, 2012)

Hougang by-election: “Always here for you” – Really?” (May 23, 2012)

Also, the USA, UK and Australia may arguably have a more vibrant free press, given that our Press Freedom ranking is at its lowest ever – at 154th.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong
Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.