Why question Thomas as AG now, but not Apandi back then?

  • Jun 4, 2018
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MP SPEAKS | Being a newly elected MP, I carry on my shoulders the weight and the mandate of the people that have voted in a Pakatan Harapan government.

In order for Harapan to deliver, we need an attorney-general that is capable of handling the various hot issues that the current government is unravelling.

The question then is why have blockades and obstacles been put up to the appointment of the new AG now, when Mohamed Apandi Ali's appointment in 2015 was met with silence? 

I think the people deserve to know the real reason behind this.

The people’s trust deficit is high because of the inconsistency in the appointment of the AG. People are already questioning why nothing was said about Apandi at the time, and no extra prerequisite placed on his appointment.

This only raises questions about what is going through the heads of the people that are advising the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on this matter.

Apandi’s appointment

To refresh people’s memories, look back to July 27, 2015, the day that Abdul Gani Patail was terminated as AG because of health issues. It caused a wave of shock to many people, including Gani himself, who never saw his health as an impediment to the carrying out of his duties.

Gani was not even given any proper time to respond or even collect his thoughts to issue a proper statement. His successor, Apandi, was immediately named on the same day.

There were a lot of rumours flying around social media stating that his termination was because he was the lead prosecutor and a key member of the taskforce investigating 1MDB.

At this juncture, no questions arose from the Agong's inner circle, whose main responsibility is to advise His Majesty on the matter.

Perhaps the urgency of the matter warranted a quick appointment. Apandi’s credibility, however, threw this into doubt.

A former Umno member – the treasurer of the Kelantan chapter – was made the new AG to replace Gani and spearhead the 1MDB investigation. Again the advisors were incompetent.

He also led a three-member panel in the controversial Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case, where he acquitted Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar.

He also allowed Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to keep his Bagan Datuk parliamentary seat in a legal challenge filed by PKR candidate Mahdi Hassan after the 2013 general election. Again, no red flag was raised.

Six months after his appointment, on Jan 25, 2016, Apandi cleared then-prime minister Najib Abdul Razak of graft after he allegedly received funds from a Saudi royal family.

People were fuming and raged at Apandi’s decision, especially with him rejecting a request for legal assistance from Switzerland.

Despite a new Yang di-Pertuan Agong being installed, and all of the controversies surrounding Apandi, his contract – which was supposed to end on July 27 this year – was extended.

Hell later broke loose when Gani revealed to Malaysians that he was investigating 1MDB and was close to charging Najib before he was terminated from his duties.

Thomas a Harapan agent?

But on Tommy Thomas, is he really an agent of Pakatan Harapan or simply a talented legal counsel? I would say it is the latter.

The first thing to get out of the way about Thomas’ appointment is that there is simply no mandate or reason for the Attorney-General’s Chambers to advise on syariah matters. This is echoed by top legal experts like Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.

His credentials speak for themselves. He has represented various clients from the Kelantan state government in demanding for oil royalty, to Fahdah and Ahmad Lutfi Othman against Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor, and the family members of the MH370 victims against Malaysia Airlines.

Thomas was picked not because he is pro-Harapan or pro-BN. He was picked because he can deliver.

We are at a crucial period, where we need someone who is not only a capable litigator to set matters straight, but also a legal advisor that can assist the government in transforming the system to be more transparent and more accountable.

Thomas, a former senior consultant for United Nations Development Plan (UNDP) to lead the corporate governance initiative for countries affected by the 1998 financial crisis – fits the bill perfectly.

His sharp legal mind is what we need at this juncture to reform, and to restore the faith of the people in the judiciary.

We are at a point where we have a trust deficit. There is no consistency from the people who are advising the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on this matter.

We all know the country needs us now more than ever. We need to look back to the reform agenda, and put Malaysia above all else.

Our nation cannot move forward if there is inconsistent treatment over the choice of the new AG now, and the choice of Apandi – who was a far more questionable pick – back then.

SYED SADDIQ SYED ABDUL RAHMAN is the MP for Muar.


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