PETALING JAYA • Malaysia's Bar Council has expressed alarm over the impasse in the appointment of a new attorney-general, and pointed out that the King is constitutionally bound to accept the choice of candidate for the post presented by the country's Prime Minister.
Bar Council president George Varughese said in a statement yesterday that more than three weeks have lapsed since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the current Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali has been put on garden leave. The council represents Malaysia's legal practitioners.
"The A-G has a vital role to play as the principal legal adviser to the government and the public prosecutor, and it is therefore imperative that a new A-G be appointed without further delay," he said.
Mr Varughese was referring to the stand-off in the new A-G's appointment. Tun Dr Mahathir said his Pakatan Harapan (PH) government wants respected constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas as its new chief prosecutor.
But the selection of a non-Malay as A-G has not gone down well with the King, Malaysia's constitutional monarch, and sources say the King has the backing of most of the nine state rulers who rotate as the Malay-majority country's supreme ruler.
The royals derive much of their influence as guardians of Malay and Islamic interests.
Mr Varughese highlighted Article 145(1) of the Federal Constitution, which states that the King shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a person who is qualified to be a judge of the federal court to be the A-G.
Meanwhile, PH de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim was set to meet the King, Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan, yesterday evening, The Malaysian Insight news site reported, to give him the assurance that Malay rights would be looked after despite the appointment of a non-Malay attorney-general.
Not everyone agrees with the choice of Mr Thomas.
The chiefs of two non-governmental organisations - Concerned Lawyers for Justice secretary-general Fatihah Jamhari and Young Professionals chief executive Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi - said PH is going against its own promise to restore the rule of law.
They say Mr Thomas must not be appointed as he is the lawyer for Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is facing a corruption charge in a Penang property deal.
"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," the duo said in a joint statement.
Meanwhile, in a separate investigation, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak is due to meet anti-graft officials in a probe related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case today.
Datin Rosmah Mansor is set to be questioned at the headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in Putrajaya at 11am.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK