There have been criticisms levelled against the appointment of lawyer Sitpah Selvaratnam to lead the government's initiative to lay claim to superyacht Equanimity – the RM1 billion vessel that was alleged to have been bought with illegally acquired 1MDB money.
According to the critics, Sitpah was linked to the former firm of now attorney-general Tommy Thomas, resulting in accusations of conflict of interest.
Thomas has yesterday defended her appointment, saying she was the best pick for the job.
A social media message which lists down the lengthy credentials of Sitpah has since gone viral. It argues that she is more than qualified to do the job.
The message, titled 'Meritocracy at last?', also notes that Sitpah, who is one of the country's leading maritime lawyers, is not being paid by the government to fight the case.
It comes with a disclaimer saying that it will take the reader several minutes to go through the long list of qualifications, and asks the readers to share the message to see what a capable lawyer the government has appointed to take those behind 1MDB to book.
Below is the list of Sitpah's qualifications, as contained in the viral message.
1990 - 1991: University of Cambridge, Cambridge
1988 - 1989: Holborn School of Law, London
1985 - 1988: University of Wales, Cardiff (UWIST)
2008: Diploma in International Commercial Arbitration from Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Keble College, Oxford
1990: Advocate & Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya
1989: Degree of Utter Barrister from the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn
1991: Master of Laws (LLM) from University of Cambridge, Queens’ College, Second Class Honours (Upper Division) Degree
1988: Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from University of Wales, Cardiff (UWIST), First Class Honours
Awards and Scholarships
1990: British High Commissioner's Award from the Kuok Foundation Scholarship
1988: Maxwell Award for Best Student of the Law Faculty from the University of Wales (UWIST)
1987: Philip E Philip Award for Law of Trusts from the University of Wales (UWIST)
1. Member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration since 2018.
2. Member of the General and Maritime Panel of Arbitrators of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA), now known as the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC).
3. Member of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) Panel of Arbitrators.
4. Member of the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA) Panel of Arbitrators.
5. Member of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) Panel of Arbitrators.
6. Member of the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre (EMAC) Panel of Arbitrators.
7. Member of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) Panel of Arbitrators.
8. Supporting Member of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA).
9. President of the International Malaysian Society of Maritime Law (IMSML).
10. Chair of the Shipping and Admiralty Law Committee of the Bar Council.
11. Co-Chair of the International Arbitration Committee of the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC).
12. Chair of the Maritime Law Committee of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) (2015-2017).
13. Chair of the Women Business Lawyers Committee of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) (2009-2011).
14. Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb).
15. Fellow of the Malaysian Institute of Arbitrators (MIArb).
16. Accredited Mediator with the Malaysian Mediation Centre (MMC).
17. Member of the ArbitralWomen.
18. Chair of the Maritime Arbitration Working Committee of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre of Arbitration (KLRCA) empanelled in August 2011 to consider and recommend facilitative measures to promote maritime arbitration in Malaysia.
19. Member of the Admiralty Court and Maritime Law Reform Taskforce empanelled by the Malaysian Judiciary in October 2010 to consider and facilitate the workings of the Malaysian Admiralty Court and reform of Malaysian maritime laws.
20. Member of the Combined Rules of Court Committee of the Bar Council to review amendments to the Rules of Court; designated to draft and review the amendments to the Admiralty and Arbitration provisions thereof.
21. Appointed in June 2007 by the Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia to the Consultative Committee on the review of the Malaysian Arbitration Act 2005.
22. Member of the Committee established by Maritime Institute of Malaysia (Mima) (2004-2005) to consider the need for an Admiralty Court in Malaysia.
23. Appointed in March 2000 to the Consultative Committee established by the Securities Commission on asset securitisation.
24. Consultant to Danaharta Managers Sdn Bhd, national asset management corporation, at its inception from March to May 1999.
The message regarding the accuracy of her qualifications as has been verified by Sitpah.
The message concludes: "Now you know why BN is worried."
On Wednesday, Umno Youth wing's young lawyers' secretariat chairperson Nik Saiful Adli Burhan questioned why Thomas' former law firm is representing 1MDB to assert its claim over Equanimity.
"This conflict of interest goes against Pakatan Harapan's manifesto that clearly states that it will arrest the decay of key institutions in the country and restore the sovereignty of law and independence of government agencies," he said in a statement.
Thomas subsequently clarified that conflict of interest does not arise, as "we are all on the same side."
He explained that Sitpah is one of the country's leading shipping lawyers with many years of experience chairing the shipping and admiralty law committee of the Bar Council.
“It must be kept in mind that these legal proceedings (on the Equanimity) are brought for the benefit of Malaysia. Accordingly, we are entitled to Malaysia’s best shipping lawyers.
“It is neither right nor sensible for Malaysia to be deprived of the services of Sitpah merely because I was in the firm where she has been a consultant for the past eight years,” Thomas said, adding that he had personally engaged Sitpah, meaning her services will not cost taxpayers a single sen.