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Attorney general’s appointment: Malaysians want the best, irrespective of race

File photo: Tommy Thomas (second from right)

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Tommy Thomas is a man of conscience and commitment and is eminently qualified to occupy this post, writes P Ramakrishnan.

On 9 May 2018, Malaysians crossed the boundaries of race and religion and came together shedding their fear and suspicion to throw out a corrupt regime that had plundered and looted the country without a tinge of conscience.

The racial and religious card that corrupt politicians had successfully deployed for six decades to remain in power finally failed them. Malaysians rose above this ruse to save the nation that was tottering on the verge of a financial collapse.

The prime minister’s appointment of Lim Guan Eng as the Finance Minister was well received as Lim was highly qualified for this post. He did not disappoint us. He went to work immediately and unearthed the colossal financial disaster that is threatening the wellbeing of this nation.

In a similar vein, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister who brooks no nonsense when it comes to the welfare of the nation, recommended Tommy Thomas, who is one of the foremost constitutional experts renowned for his expertise on constitutional matters for the post of attorney general, replacing the thoroughly discredited Apandi Ali. Thomas would be the ideal choice for this position.

This was the unanimous choice of Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders. They wanted the best for the nation and they had no qualms in choosing the best to fill this very important post.

That decision transcended the consideration of race and religion in the interest of the country and signalled a radical departure from those of the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) regime, bogged down repeatedly over six decades by considerations of race and religion.

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According to The Malaysian Insight, Mahathir had written to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong more than 10 days ago, asking our king to remove Apandi and replace him with Tommy Thomas as the new attorney general.

But apparently and unfortunately, the Agong did not act on this. It is learnt that the Agong wanted a Malay-Muslim to fill this post, and his stance was apparently supported by the other rulers as well.

It is a fact that, going by the provisions of the constitution, the prime minister has the sole discretion in this appointment. As such, according to some legal experts, the Agong is obliged to act on this matter without any reservation whatsoever; otherwise it might create a needless constitutional crisis that we seem to be heading towards.

Way back in our parliamentary history, there was an occasion when the Agong refused to give assent to a government bill, thus causing a constitutional crisis.

This impasse was overcome by an amendment to the constitution so that when assent is refused by the Agong, the bill would be deemed to have received such assent after a lapse of 30 days.

This amendment was repugnant to our democratic notion of a constitutional monarchy – but what choice did the government have then?

Would PH resort to a similar recourse to overcome this present impasse? Only time will tell.

It is difficult to understand why a Malay-Muslim should be appointed to occupy this exalted position this time around. After all why was Gani Patail, a Malay-Muslim attorney general removed? Wasn’t he Malay enough?

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To make matters worse, Gani was shamelessly removed through an expediently concocted lie that claimed he was removed on health grounds! Now he is back as the head of this investigation panel to probe into the 1MDB scandal. His health is no longer an issue now?

The man who replaced Gani as the attorney general is a Malay-Muslim. How did he discharge his duty? He deliberately lied that former prime minister Najib Razak did not commit any wrongdoing just to clear him of any wrongdoing! This took place on 26 January 2016.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, what was reconstituted by removing those who were seriously investigating the 1MDB scandal, also cleared Najib. The head of the MACC then was also a Malay-Muslim. This convenient clearance was reported by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman in a written reply in Parliament on 19 March 2016.

Why is the monarchy obsessed with the idea of a Malay-Muslim? It is difficult to fathom.

As for this notion that all key positions should be held by Malays, the former newspaper editor, A Kadir Jasin, offered a scathing response, according to The Malaysian Insight: “What’s the use of having Malays in high positions if that Malay is cruel, corrupt, and someone who collaborates with thieves and speculators?” he asked, adding that “integrity was more important than race.”

Indeed, Kadir hit the nail on the head!

Rafidah Aziz the former minister, felt strongly that we should move ahead by embracing “ketuanan Malaysia”. This is sound advice, reflecting how Malaysians have moved forward in a collective effort to bring about a new Malaysia.

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Tommy Thomas is a man of conscience and commitment. He is eminently qualified to occupy this post. He had loyally answered the call of duty to serve the nation. Such a person is a credit to the country, and Malaysians are proud that he has come forward to serve the nation.

An important question arises from this unnecessary controversy: Does a popularly and legitimately elected government have the right to appoint a person of its choice to any position of authority in representing the mandate given by the voters?

Can this right be frustrated by any quarter, from howsoever high, and for whatever reason?

The PH leadership should draw strength in the saying, “Doing the right thing isn’t always easy – in fact, sometimes it’s real hard – but just remember that doing the right thing is always right.”

Remember: Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right. – Warren Bennis

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