It is the home minister and not the Attorney-General (A-G) who decides if Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim can attend next month’s Parliament sitting, Pakatan Rakyat MPs said today.
They said Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was wrong in stating that it was up to the A-G to allow Anwar, the Permatang Pauh MP, to attend the session.
“This is wrong and a blatant attempt to evade responsibility. The Prisons Department is under the home ministry and not the A-G.
“Only the home minister or the federal government has the power to allow Anwar to attend Parliament sitting.”Zahid has to agree to this and give the appropriate directive to the Prisons Department, ” said PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP, Nurul Izzah Anwar during a joint press conference with her PR colleagues, today.
Yesterday, Zahid said the matter of Anwar’s attendance at the next Parliament sitting scheduled from March 9 to April 9 must be referred to the A-G.
His stand differed from his deputy, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who said the ministry would consider Anwar’s application.
“I beg to differ with my deputy minister who made the media statement, the case must be referred to the A-G.
“There is no need for individual opinions, whether among ministers or politicians, we have to leave the responsibility to legal practitioners especially the A-G to interpret based on the provisions in the federal constitution, and other clauses in related laws,” Zahid said.
Through his lawyers, Anwar had written to the home minister two days ago to request permission to attend the Parliament sitting.
Nurul Izzah, who is Anwar’s eldest daughter, cited Section 31 (1) (a) of the Prisons Act which states that the prisons commissioner-general can approve Anwar’s request to be in Parliament provided he is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for it.
The PKR vice-president then showed reporters an invitation from Parliament speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia to Anwar to attend the first day of sitting which will be opened by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
“We have written to both the Parliament speaker and the prisons commissioner-general on this matter,” she added.
PKR’s Batu MP Tian Chua said by convention, prisoners are required to write to the prison authorities if they wanted to attend important private functions like hospital appointments, funerals or weddings of close family members, and the home minister will decide whether to allow the request.
“It is totally wrong in terms of legal knowledge to pass the buck to the A-G. The A-G has no power to decide on the welfare of prisoners,” he said.
If Zahid refused to allow the de facto PKR leader to attend parliament, the PKR vice-president said the Umno minister should give strong valid reasons.
Anwar’s lawyer, N. Surendran, said Zahid was wrong to state that the A-G had to decide on this matter.
“Since when is the Prisons Department under the A-G? Zahid should not beat around the bush but should instead facilitate Anwar’s request,” he said.
DAP’s Teresa Kok said the eyes of the world are currently on Anwar’s case and Putrajaya’s handling of it made the ruling Barisan Nasional government look bad.
“The world is watching Malaysia… I hope the home minister can correct his mistake,” said Kok, who is Seputeh MP.
PAS’s Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said when Parliament convenes in two weeks for the first time this year, Anwar should be among the federal lawmakers in attendance and should not be prevented from discharging his duties.
“This is the will of the people. Anwar’s presence will ensure the interests of the people are defended,” he said.
On February 10, a five-man bench led by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria found Anwar guilty of having carnal intercourse with his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
He was alleged to have committed the offence at a unit of the Desa Damansara condominium in Bukit Damansara on June 26, 2008.
Anwar is still the opposition leader and Permatang Pauh MP after his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Nurul Izzah presented a petition for a royal pardon to Istana Negara on Tuesday afternoon, just before the 14-day deadline expired.
The Federal Constitution states that the seat will not be declared vacant until the Pardons Board has deliberated and made a decision on the appeal for clemency.
Pandikar also said Anwar was still an MP until a decision was made.