KUALA LUMPUR – June 4, 2018: While many have brought up race and religion to protest Tommy Thomas’ appointment as the attorney-general, the general argument among lawyers however, pivots to that of his professional interests.
Lawyer Fatihah Jamhari for example, was of the opinion that appointing Thomas as the AG would put him in a precarious position given the latter’s illustrious background representing politicians from both side of the political divide.
“He has acted for Lim Guan Eng in the corruption charges against the now Finance Minister. Why would anybody with an ounce of ethics want to place himself in such a position?” Fatihah argued.
Thomas has been shoved into the limelight since yesterday following reports that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has not acted on his appointment and has asked Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to reconsider his choice as the AG of Malaysia.
The reason behind the King’s objection of Thomas was never made known but Malaysian Insight reported that it was due to the fact that the former, along other Malay rulers were adamant that the AG should be a Muslim Malay.
While a member of the Bar Council had highlighted that the Federal Constitution mentioned nothing about race and religion being the prerequisites to be the AG, Fatihah pointed out otherwise.
Stressing on the role of the AG that encompasses not only prosecution and legal conduct for government suits but also rendering legal advice on all relevant matters, she contended that Thomas would not be able advise the government on Islamic matters.
“This include advice on Islamic laws or other laws that affect the five pillars of our social contract under Articles 3, 152, 181 and Part III,” she said.
Civil and Syariah lawyer Mohd Fasha Musthafa also concurred with Fatihah’s view adding that the AG must also be well-versed in criminal laws and according to him, such a thing was not Thomas’ area of expertise.
In backing his view, Fasha cited Article 145 (3) of the constitution which pointed out that the AG is also the highest ranking public prosecutor in the country and is also known as the Public Prosecutor.
“Having said that, the AG must be an excellent criminal law practitioner. The knowledge and experience is needed for him to evaluate cases and exercise his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence.
“Thomas is not known as a criminal lawyer. I’m not questioning his ability but his firm does not even list criminal law defence as area of practice,” said Fasha.
Thomas’ involvement with the late exiled-leader of Malayan Communist Party, Chin Peng, was also touted by detractors as one of the reasons Malaysians should object his appointment as the AG.
But where an Umno member raised Thomas’ role as Chin Peng’s lawyer in an unsuccessful litigation to bring back the communist leader to Malaysia as a reason to object his appointment, lawyers Muhammad Iza’an Azalan and Faidur Rahman Abdul Hadi highlighted Thomas’ personal sentiment for Chin Peng.
They were referring to Thomas’ September 17, 2013 obituary on Chin Peng where the latter penned glowing remarks about Chin Peng and that he would take his place as a major national icon once “the true history of Merdeka would be researched and published.”
“We are not attacking his role as Chin Peng lawyer but more on his personal sentiment for Chin Peng. Thomas can defend a rapist by the cannot go around saying he supports a rapist,” Iza’an argued.
In the event that Thomas’ appointment as the AG is realised, Fatihah and Faidur concurred that doing so could compromise the integrity of the AG Chambers when dealing with cases involving his firm.
They however, pointed out that appointing a lawyer as AG isn’t something that had not been done before. A case in point was the appointment of Tan Sri Mokhtar Abdullah.
The only difference was that Mokhtar became a judge before he was appointed as AG (1994 – 2000).
“Judges can be lawyers but once appointed he will have to give up practice. It will take a lot of trust, one that we Malaysians don’t have for Thomas to begin with,” was Fatihah and Faidur’s contention.