ALOR SETAR (June 3): Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has defended the government’s choice of constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas to be the Attorney-General, stating that the decision is in line with the Federal Constitution.
Dr Mahathir said there was no statement from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V about Thomas suitability for the post on the basis that he is a secularist.
Thomas’ name was submitted to the Palace by Mahathir more than a week ago as a replacement to Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, who has been asked to go on leave, but the King has been silent on the unanimous choice of the Pakatan Harapan government.
Various leaders have made statements including PAS claiming that the Agong allegedly wants an AG who can advise the government on Islamic matters.
Speaking to reporters after a Pakatan Harapan meeting here, Dr Mahathir dismissed speculation that the Palace is not keen on Thomas because he once represented Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was in the opposition then.
“There is no statement (from the Palace) that he is rejected because he is a supporter of secularism. Yes, he was the lawyer for Guan Eng, who is now the Finance Minister. He is in the government. Why can’t he be the AG if he is a friend to Guan Eng?” Dr Mahathir asked.
“Thomas is a lawyer for everybody, even for Barisan Nasional. Lawyers take cases that bring them some income,” he said.
“We have made a decision according to the law, and our Federal Constitution says the King acts upon the Prime Minister’s advice. We will stick to that principle,” he stressed.
Dr Mahathir added that efforts are being made to overcome the problem and there is no use for him to make any clarification before it is resolved.
There has been wide support for Thomas to be named the AG from lawyers, political party leaders and social media users. Former Information, Communication and Culture Minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim tweeted that there was nothing wrong with the selection process.
He urged people to stop bickering over the issue when there are no legal grounds for dissent. Rais cited Article 145 of the Federal Constitution which states that the Agong must appoint the Attorney General on the advice of the prime minister, and that he (King) stands advised as per Article 40.
“Let the Prime Minister get on with the job with his Cabinet,” Rais said.
Bernama reported that the Malay rulers are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the appointment of the new AG, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, Tan Sri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, said in a statement on Sunday.
Dr Mahathir was also asked to comment if the decision to appoint the new AG infringes Pakatan’s manifesto which states that the AG should be selected from among the Members of Parliament. It also states that the AG will be a minister and play the role of the chief legal adviser to the government while the public prosecutor, who will lead Malaysia’s Public Prosecutor Office, would be another independent individual who can act without partisan interest.
“The prosecutors suggested that power should be separated from the role of the AG but we have not decided on that yet. It is only a suggestion,” he replied.