February 1, 2013
Drop AES summonses and refund fines, former A-G tells Gani Patail
By Amin Iskandar
Assistant News Editor@http://www.themalaysianinsider.com
The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AG-C) should withdraw all traffic summonses issued under the controversial Automated Enforcement System (AES) and refund the cash paid up by motorists it had penalised now that the privatised system has proven to be defective, said Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, weighing in on the hot-button topic ahead of Election 2013.
The Attorney-General for 13 years, the retired civil servant described the privatised traffic enforcement system rolled out last September as a clear case of the government putting the cart before the horse and done thoughtlessly without respect for the rule of law or fundamental rights.
“It is totally unfair and unreasonable to allow a summons to be issued but does not allow the prosecution of the case if the person or persons summoned wish to challenge the action of the authorities. Where does he or she go to seek justice?
“The court must act independently and not take orders from the public prosecutor,” Abu Talib told The Malaysian Insider in a recent interview.
The AG-C and the Federal Government came under fire last month for freezing the prosecution of traffic offenders under the AES yet allowing the system to continue operating.
The freeze was ordered following an outcry after the system issued nearly 300,000 summonses since it kicked off on September 23 last year.
The decision sparked widespread public anger and prompted the Najib administration to mull holding off implementation of the system that appears to duplicate police speed traps along highways.
But shortly after the freeze, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said the AES would still operate as usual and summonses would continue to be issued, drawing more criticisms from those opposing the system.
“The government will not stop AES summons as it is already been decided in the last Cabinet meeting,” Kong had said on December 26, referring to the approval of his ministry’s estimated expenditure under Budget 2013.
Abu Talib, however, reserved his criticism for the incumbent Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who was reported to have admitted to weaknesses in the AES.
Abdul Gani was reported as saying the summonses were still valid but admitted that the problematic issue was centred on the legal aspects of the speeding tickets and his office was still in discussion over how to resolve the matter.
“ The court must act independently and not take orders from the public prosecutor.” — Abu Talib
In a January 13 report by Malay broadsheet Mingguan Malaysia, the country’s top lawyer said the decision over the fate of the thousands of summonses issued so far under the system could not revealed yet as it involves the co-operation of numerous agencies.
“The fact that he said that his office needed time to sort out issues relating to AES as well as ensure all regulations and procedures were in place before court proceedings were initiated is an admission that the system was hastily implemented without much thought for the law and the right of citizens,” Abu Talib said.
“A clear case of putting the cart before the horse,” the 73-year-old added, and rebuked Abdul Gani for suspending prosecution without giving further thought to the legal implications, which he called “totally unfair and unreasonable”.
“If it’s true, that all regulations and procedures are not yet in place, the right thing for him to do is to withdraw all summons issued and refund all the fines paid, if any,” said Abu Talib, who is also a former chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
He urged the government to exercise more caution in making decisions and to proceed only when ready. “This is what justice to the public is all about,” Abu Talib said.
The privatised RM700 million project began in September 2012 with a pilot phase of 14 cameras but the RTD has pledged to roll out a total of 831 cameras by the end of this year to catch speeding motorists and prevent more road deaths.
The Police, who enforce the speeding laws, have said they will continue enforcement and put up mobile speed traps near the AES cameras, raising the prospect of dual fines for errant motorists.
The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Federal Opposition has been using the issue as electoral fodder in the run-up to national polls that must be called by April when the ruling Barisan Nasional’s (BN) mandate expires.