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Mahathir's proposal of lawyer Tommy Thomas as AG sparks disagreement

M'sian King at odds with PM Mahathir's choice of Tommy Thomas

A proposal by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to appoint senior lawyer Tommy Thomas as the attorney-general has sparked a major disagreement with the Agung, Malaysia's constitutional monarch.

It has also stirred debate about a non-Muslim taking on a powerful post with discretionary powers of prosecution.

Dr Mahathir is adamant about replacing Mr Apandi Ali, submitting only Mr Thomas' name to Sultan Muhammad V.

"The King has suggested four names to Dr Mahathir, including an existing Federal Court judge and a Court of Appeal judge," said a source.

"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 Mr 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.

Mr Thomas could not be contacted to confirm the matter.

Yesterday, the proposal got the support of Mr Hanipa Maidin, who chairs the Legal Bureau of Parti Amanah Negara.

In a letter to news portal Malaysiakini, he said Mr Thomas not only has in-depth legal knowledge, "but more importantly, he is a senior lawyer with the utmost integrity, that is crucial for being an AG".

But Institute of Islamic Strategic Research Malaysia chief executive officer Prof Mahamad Naser Disa said the move was unconstitutional.

NON-MUSLIM

He said this was because a non-Muslim could not assist the Agung in preserving the sanctity of Islam at all times, and therefore breaches Article 145(2) of the Federal Constitution.

"His stand and that of like-minded Muslim lawyers that Malaysia is a secular country clearly infringes on the Constitution that states that Islam is the country's official religion," he said.

He also said that a conflict of interest is bound to happen should Mr Thomas be the AG as he is representing Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in his corruption cases.

A retired senior judge said there is another matter to consider.

"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," he said.

Several social media users said the prime minister's choice of AG should be respected by the King, who must be above politics.

Facebook user Hirzan Afifi said: "If Tommy Thomas is our new attorney general, I got nothing to oppose."

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." - THE STAR/ANN

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