PETALING JAYA: Attorney General Tommy Thomas says he was not aware of the case against Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin for making seditious remarks against the Selangor Sultan until the High Court upheld the decision to convict him and enhanced his sentence on July 9.
Thomas provided a sequence of events for the case, which showed that Wan Ji was charged and convicted prior to the 14th General Election.
The timeline showed that Wan ji was charged in September 2014, convicted in April 2018, and a subsequent appeal and cross-appeal were filed in April 2018 before the High Court's decision on July 9, 2019.
"No written representations were ever made by the accused or his lawyer to me, and I was not personally aware of this matter until after the decisions of the High Court on July 9 became publicly known.
"This is hardly surprising because on any given working day, the Federal and 13 state governments are involved, literally, in hundreds of criminal and civil cases in all the courts of the land.
"It is therefore impossible for any one person to be personally acquainted with even a tiny fraction of these cases. Hence, delegation and decentralisation of authority are essential," he said in a statement on Friday (July 12).
The High Court had granted a stay of execution on Wan Ji's one-year jail sentence until the appeal process was completed.
Thomas said the AGC was studying the options open to it with respect to Wan Ji's appeal, but noted that in view of his conviction by two courts, "the margin of discretion in his office is substantially limited".
Thomas also explained the continued use of the Sedition Act 1948.
He said the Act is among those that the Pakatan Harapan manifesto had stated it would repeal, but said that the Cabinet had not informed the AGC of any decision to repeal or amend it.
"Under our system of government, it is the Cabinet that decides on behalf of the executive branch to enact, repeal or amend laws for presentation to Parliament, with chambers assisting in the drafting of new laws," he said.
He also said Cabinet had not sent any instructions to stop relying on the Sedition Act.
"Such an instruction would not, in any event, be lawful because it would offend the discretionary power under the Constitution vested solely in the office of the Attorney General to decide on prosecutorial matters on behalf of the state," he said.
Thomas added that upon assuming office in June 2018, he decided to only turn to the Sedition Act as a measure of last resort.
"Because the Sedition Act is still a law, it cannot be totally disregarded. That can only occur if Parliament repeals it.
"Since GE14, however, not a single person has been charged under the Sedition Act," he said.
Hence, Thomas said for cases under the Sedition Act pending in the Courts in May 2018, its policy is to review each case on an individual basis depending on its circumstances.
"We only act on written representations from an accused or his lawyer. This promotes transparency and accountability," he said.
Thomas added that if a prosecution has to occur, it will rely on the Penal Code, but if there where there no alternatives under the laws, then in appropriate cases, it "cannot rule out applying the Sedition Act, until it is repealed".