PETALING JAYA: A proposal by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to appoint senior lawyer Tommy Thomas as the Attorney General has sparked a major disagreement with the King.
Essentially, Dr Mahathir is adamant about replacing Tan Sri Apandi Ali, submitting only Thomas’ name to Sultan Muhammad V.
However, the King insisted on more than one name, according to sources close to the royalty.
“The King has suggested four names to Dr Mahathir, including an existing Federal Court judge and a Court of Appeal judge,” said one of the sources.
“The King’s argument is that he wants somebody who has been a judge or even a retired judge. He does not care whether the AG is an Indian, Chinese or Malay,’’ said the source, adding that the King demonstrated this when he accepted DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng as the Finance Minister.
The sources also pointed out that the King had once even recommended Thomas to the Kelantan government to act in a case against Petronas.
“The King wants an AG who is able to advise him on Syariah matters too, but Dr Mahathir rebutted that the Solicitor General can handle that job.
“However, the King felt that the AG as the top officer should be the one advising him,’’ said the source.
The Palace felt that it was not right for the blogs to construe the issue as “a constitutional crisis”.
“This is just a difference in opinions. The King informed Dr Mahathir that if he really wants someone to prosecute the 1MDB case, he need not make Thomas the AG.
“Thomas could be appointed as a DPP (deputy public prosecutor) just like how it was done with lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee before this,’’ added the source.
Just two days ago, prominent pro-Dr Mahathir blogger Syed Akbar Ali wrote on OutSyed The Box, saying that there seemed to be serious issues developing between the Government and “another party” over the AG’s appointment.
“There is a very strong rumour (which I heard from very strong people) that our Dr Mahathir has already shortlisted one candidate as the new Attorney General,” he wrote, adding that “the candidate is said to be a non-Muslim, male Indian” and “an expert on Federal Constitution”.
Syed Akbar ruled out eminent retired judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as the candidate.
He further said that the appointment was being objected to on the grounds that the candidate was neither a Malay nor a Muslim.
He said the new AG was tipped to be on a strict two-year contract with a job focused on institutional reforms.
Yesterday, news portal Malaysian Insight also reported that the new Government was headed for a clash with the Malay rulers over the appointment.
Thomas could not be contacted to confirm the matter. Neither the press nor his close friends could reach him yet.
A retired senior judge said the matter was far more complicated than it appeared to be.
“A candidate for the AG’s position would have to be as qualified as a Federal Court judge with no less than 15 years’ experience in legal practice.”
Senior lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla said the three characteristics that an AG should have to be effective were that he should be able to give general advice on each and every legal policy of the country, assist the Government on every provision of the Federal Constitution and hold two roles as the AG as well as the Public Prosecutor.
“As a Public Prosecutor, the candidate must have experience in criminal practice in order to be effective and not end up being a lame duck.”
Malaysians have come out in support of Thomas as the new AG.
Social media users, in particular, said the Prime Minister’s choice of AG should be respected by the King, saying the Ruler must be above politics.
They also vouched for Thomas’ credibility for the top job, saying he is the most suitable candidate
Facebook user Hirzan Afifi said: “If Tommy Thomas is our new attorney general, I got nothing to oppose. He is the king.”
Another user, Ranendra Bhattacharyya, said: “Haven’t we, Malaysians, having put in place the Government of our choice, demand the best should be appointed into office for vital national interests. Tommy Thomas for Attorney General of Malaysia.”
Another user Lim Hwah Beng said “Tommy Thomas is the one preferred by PH to be AG. It’s good if they can succeed in appointing Tommy Thomas as AG but I doubt they can ... Anyway, we will take it one step at a time.”
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council member A Kadir Jasin said in his blog that the King should respect the Constitution and act on the Government’s advice.