KOTA BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Pakatan Harapan government is promoting cronyism by insisting on appointing Tommy Thomas as the Attorney-General, lawyer groups said.
They said this is because Thomas is Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng's counsel in his ongoing corruption case.
Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) secretary-general Fatihah Jamhari and Young Professionals (YP) chief executive Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi said Pakatan Harapan was going against its promise to restore the rule of law.
"The proposed appointment of Thomas only serves to perpetuate the notion that this new government has all the hallmarks of the old Barisan Nasional government when it comes to cronyism and abuse of power, as he is Lim's counsel in the ongoing corruption case against him."
"The conflict of interest could not be more manifest," they said in a joint statement Monday (June 4).
On May 21, the High Court postponed Lim's corruption trial as his lawyers planned to propose to the new AG to drop the corruption charge.
"If Tommy is appointed as AG, he will be put in a precarious position of respecting his office and the confidentiality privilege he has for his client.
"Why would anybody with an ounce of ethics want to place himself in such a position?" they said.
CLJ and YP added that an AG should also be an excellent criminal law practitioner.
"But Thomas is not known as a criminal lawyer ... his firm does not even list criminal law defence as its area of practice," they noted.
By virtue of Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution, the AG is also the highest-ranking public prosecutor in the country, and is also known as the Public Prosecutor (PP).
"Knowledge and experience is needed for him to evaluate cases and exercise his discretion to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings," they said.
They agreed that racial and religious backgrounds were immaterial.
"What truly matters is the fact that they must understand the constitutional and legal provisions as well as the subtle nuances of our local narratives and history.
"The AG is in charge not only of prosecution and legal conduct for the government suits, but also renderS legal advice to the Government on all relevant, legal matters as stipulated in Article 145(2).
"This includes advice on Islamic laws or other laws that affect the five pillars of our social contract under Articles 3, 152, 153, 181 & Part III.
"How can we expect a person who is not familiar with the peculiarities of our Constitution to work in the best interest of safeguarding the interests that lie in it?
"For example, Thomas had once clearly declared that Malaysia is a secular state, much to the insult of Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.
"He had also said in the past that Rukunegara has no legal bearing. This is on top of his personal feelings for Chin Peng, a communist, who was regarded as an insurgent to the country," they said.
CLJ and YP also pointed out Thomas' inability to converse well in the national and official language of Malaysia, pursuant to Article 152.
The powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 145 must be read harmoniously with the spirit of the entire Federal Constitution, taking into consideration of the oath taken by the ruler to uphold the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the Federation, they said.