Marking the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), current Attorney-General Chulasingh Vasantasingh talks to KING-OUA LAOHONG about the role and the challenges of public prosecution in times of political crisis.
Chulasingh: No emotional attachments
How does the OAG respond to political pressure?
A public prosecutor's job has nothing to do with politics. Political preferences are irrelevant to the justice system. The prosecution cannot take sides at all.
Impartiality is essential to our job. It ensures fairness and establishes trust in the justice system. The public prosecution office performs as required by the constitution. I can guarantee that our decisions are free from interference. We are willing to answer questions about the cases.
In the past several years we have seen a number of cases involving politicians and political parties. When our decision is in favour of one side, the other is not happy.
I have come under heavy criticism when things like this happen. But eventually impartiality rules.
Do the prosecutors in charge of political cases feel uncomfortable?
If the cases involve politics, I will refrain from making comments. A prosecutor must be free from emotional attachments.
We read the police reports and decide if they are complete. If they are not, we refer the cases back to the police. There is nothing to be proud of or sorry about when we make decisions. It is a job.
What are the office's new challenges?
Judicial administration in the troubled South. Almost no state official assigned to the region asks to stay [when their term is complete]. The OAG tries to give them the best offer possible.
We plan to assign senior public prosecutors to take direct charge of security cases. Their stay in the region needs to be prolonged, but this plan must be approved by the State Attorney Commission.
The senior prosecutors will see to it that administration of justice is carried out. The plan should materialise within this year to have a centre for administration of security cases up and running. Its objective is not to win the cases, but to ensure equality and fairness for the parties concerned.
The status of the centre is higher than the provincial prosecutor and the executive director.
Regarding the case of the 1990 disappearance of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili, what will the prosecution do after the Constitutional Court has ruled that the examination of a key witness by the prosecutor in a foreign country violates the constitution?
I have not seen the full version of the charter court's ruling. We have asked for permission to take the statements of the key witness in a foreign country.
The defendant objects to the request on the grounds that his lawyers cannot cross-examine the witness. So, we have to figure out how to solve this issue, but at this stage I cannot say how to proceed.
The OAG respects the authority of all independent public agencies.
When the charter court rules that such a move is against the constitution, we are required to proceed within the constitution.
The foreign affairs director-general and relevant parties will work it out and propose it to the Criminal Court.
But we will have to study the court ruling first.