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.”