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Malaysian PM proposes anti-corruption, judicial reform bills

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday proposed a much-anticipated anti-corruption bill and another bill to restore integrity to the country's judiciary, reported German news agency DPA.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission bill, aimed to take effect in January, was aimed at stamping out corruption in the public and private sectors. Abdullah also proposed an independent judicial body to manage the appointment of judges of superior courts.

Both bills came amid growing criticism that Abdullah has done little to make good on his pledge to clamp down on corruption since taking office in November 2003.

Abdullah said the reforms would boost foreign investor confidence in the government and the judiciary, both often often regarded as corrupt and lacking in integrity.

"When there is a negative perception like this, it will also influence investors, businessmen and industrialists. They will certainly be uneasy about investing their money if they think corruption is rife, Abdullah said.

"A less than satisfactory judiciary also can erode the nation's competitiveness," he was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.

However, he defended provisions in the judicial appointment commission to allow the prime minister to have a say in the selection of judges.

"Surely such power cannot be in the hands of the commission alone," he said.

The judiciary has been hit by several major controversies in recent years, including a videotape which surfaced purportedly showing a veteran lawyer in a phone conversation with a former chief justice allegedly fixing the appointment of senior judges.

Outrage following the release of the tape caused the government to form a royal commission of inquiry, which found that the process of judicial appointments was open to manipulation by the executive and private citizens.

Some critics dismissed Abdullah's move as a political manoeuvre.

"We need to wait and see, because true reform needs political will to carry through," said human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz.

Abdullah, who has announced he will step down in March next year, has said he intends to make good on his promises to create a cleaner government before he retires.

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