PETALING JAYA: Syazlin Mansor caused “embarrassment” in her capacity as the lawyer for the Housing and Local Government Ministry at the inquest into the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, said Attorney General Tommy Thomas.
Thomas said this was one of the reasons he requested Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin revoke Syazlin’s appointment to represent the ministry and the Fire and Rescue Department at the inquest.
Syazlin’s appointment, said Thomas, caused a conflict of interest in the inquest proceedings because apart from representing the ministry and the department, she also stood in for Muhammad Adib’s family.
“The interests of these parties may conflict and it was unacceptable for her to act for all parties.
“My officers, who are performing their traditional role as counsel assisting the coroner, have informed me that Syazlin takes an active part in the inquest – often contradicting the positions that our deputy public prosecutors have taken – causing embarrassment in her capacity as the ministry’s lawyer,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Thomas said both the ministry and the department were required to seek legal advice from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), with external counsels being appointed by the AG or Public Prosecutor.
However, he said Syazlin was informed that she was free to continue representing Muhammad Adib’s family at the inquest.
Syazlin withdrew from representing the family as well.
Thomas issued a statement to clarify Syazlin’s sudden withdrawal from the inquest on Monday.
Her withdrawal has stirred speculation, especially as this came at a later stage of the inquest.
Syazlin represented the ministry, the department and Muhammad Adib’s family on a “pro bono” basis at the inquest since proceedings started in February this year.
Zuraida later said that Syazlin’s presence was “redundant” as the AGC was representing the government, which included both the ministry and the department.
Her political secretary Nor Hizwan Ahmad confirmed yesterday that the ministry received a letter from Thomas on May 23, asking for Syazlin’s appointment to be revoked.
Nor Hizwan said Syazlin was appointed in the department’s interest in the inquest.
“She was appointed at an early stage to ensure and assist in the discovery of the full facts surrounding the death of Muhammad Adib.
“This was a matter of great importance to both the ministry and the department as a member of the department had died in the course of carrying out his duty,” he said in a statement.
Nor Hizwan also asked why Syazlin’s presence in the inquest was only questioned now instead of at the start of the inquest.
“No objections were raised by any parties involved throughout the course of the inquest – which is now nearing its end,” he added.
Prominent lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said Thomas needed to explain why Syazlin was asked to withdraw as the inquest had gone on for 37 days.
“Why only now? Why not earlier and what has happened in the last 37 days that made the AGC think her appearance was now not in the public interest for a fair and proper inquest?” said Mohamed Haniff.
Thomas’ involvement at this late stage of the inquest, he added, showed the reasons given by the AG on Syazlin’s withdrawal were “afterthoughts” and created a public perception that there was improper interference, which might have an effect to prejudice the inquest.
“Surely, for Syazlin to have taken a contradicting or opposing stand from the AG’s officers augurs well and will go far to assist the inquest in finding out the truth.
“After all, that is the very basis of our adversarial criminal system,” said Mohamed Haniff, adding that Thomas’ explanation further fuelled the perception that the AG was attempting to treat the inquest as a mere “rubber stamp” avenue.