The recent appointment of former MP Mr Hri Kumar Nair as a Deputy Attorney-General (DAG) who will work closely alongside new Attorney-General Lucien Wong has caused some concerns.
The Attorney-General (AG) has the duty to, amongst other things, provide partisan legal advice to the Government of the day. The office is also charged with acting as the Public Prosecutor and performs the role of being the country’s legal representative. Presumably, the AG performs all these roles with the assistance of the Deputy Attorney Generals and Solicitor Generals.
Following from the above, it is safe to assume that the AG and DAG’s roles are to serve the Government of Singapore and not any political party per se. Given the “above politics” role of the AG and the DAG, is the appointment of Hri Kumar appropriate?
While there is no doubt as to Hri Kumar’s legal expertise, will his close association with the PAP affect his credibility in this supposedly apolitical role?
While Hri Kumar is no longer a member of the People’s Action Party (PAP), does he still have an affinity with the PAP that may be construed as too close to be completely able to separate party interests from state interests?
I understand that it is important for the best person to be appointed to the job and that past PAP membership in itself should not rule him out for the job. But, should there not be a minimum cooling off period of at least one full election cycle before he can be considered for the job?
Mr Nair was an MP up to 2015 and it is unclear when he actually quit the party. The refusal by the PAP to disclose when he quit the party is also some cause for concern as it arouses suspicion that he only quit the party after being told that he would be appointed to the job.
This could mean that right up to the announcement of his appointment, that he was still a PAP member. Will that be perceived by the public as “too close for comfort”?
Even if Mr Nair were able to be completely objective in the role, would his actions always be viewed with suspicion because of his “too proximate and too recent” association with the ruling party? Will this not needlessly damage the credibility of the entire establishment of the AG’s office?
The appointment of Hri Kumar is all the more significant because the recent appointment of his boss, Lucien Wong as AG was in itself not without controversy. Will these appointments have the undesired outcome of being viewed as “government” friendly appointments made to ensure that the law is always on the government’s side? Will this not dilute the integrity of the government’s legal arm?
I am not suggesting that Mr Nair is not up for the job. I just wonder if there should have been a longer cooling off period.
Further, the date of when he actually quit the party should also be disclosed for the sake of transparency and the eradication of unwarranted rumours.
Will decisions whether to prosecute a given case ever be called to question because of Mr Nair’s former associations with the PAP?
There are already concerns in relation to this with regards to the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council issues.
Justice must not only be done but it must also be seen to be done. Will this end be served? I suppose it remains to be seen.