Malaysia may soon have its first non-Malay Attorney General but Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is having a hard time with the monarch on the issue.
Mahathir said his government will stick to its nomination of lawyer Tommy Thomas for Attorney General (AG).
But the Palace have reservations about the choice.
An attempt to spark a debate among Malaysians by some quarters has so far resulted in widespread support for the government over the issue.
In a first in Malaysia, people from all walks of life and all religious beliefs gave their support to the government’s choice of Thomas for AG.
Most of the comments from social media show netizens arguing whether the country should see another ‘Malay’ AG who would be partial in his judgement, referring to the inaction by the current AG in the 1MDB scandal.
Many netizens also called for the sitting AG, Apandi Ali to vacate the post.
Apandi is accused of ignoring crucial leads on the 1MDB that are now under scrutiny from the new anti-graft team.
Under Article 123 of the Federal Constitution, the candidate for AG must have at least 10 years of legal practice or has served the judicial and legal service for at least 10 years before the appointment.
The religious or ethnic and race issue does not come into play in the nomination of the AG in the country.
Thomas is one of Malaysia’s leading litigation lawyers, with over 40 years’ experience as counsel in landmark cases.
“He is a lawyer for everybody, even for Barisan Nasional. Lawyers take cases that bring them income,” said Dr Mahathir,
Dr Mahathir said the Government is handling the matter based on the law and Federal Constitution while the King acts on advice from the Government.
“We are holding onto our principles,” said Dr Mahathir, adding that efforts are ongoing to resolve the issue.
He denied that Thomas was a secular supporter and found nothing wrong with Thomas being close to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Thomas had represented Lim, then Penang chief minister, in the bungalow issue which was under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Some pro-Malay groupings said nominating a non-Malay as AG will impact on ‘Muslims’ in the country.