KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's king and other Malay rulers will have an emergency meeting at the Istana Negara on Tuesday to discuss the appointment of the country's new Attorney-General, as controversy reigns over the suitability of the candidate the federal government wants as a replacement.
A palace official said in a statement that Putrajaya and Istana Negara have not arrived at any agreement regarding the termination of service of the current AG, Mohamed Apandi Ali, and the candidate to replace him.
“The Malay Rulers have been following this development and consider it their responsibility to help resolve the impasse,” he said.
The statement cited Article 145 (1) of the Federal Constitution which states: “The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a person qualified to be a Federal Court judge to be the Attorney-General for the Federation."
It also referred to Article 145 (5) which states that the AG shall hold office "during the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong".
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had written to the king, requesting that he remove Mohamed Apandi and replace him with senior lawyer Tommy Thomas, The Malaysian Insight reported.
But Mahathir's request had not been acted on, with the prime minister instead asked to consider several other candidates, including a former high court judge and a serving court of appeal judge, the report said.
Meanwhile, thousands of Malaysians have signed an online petition, objecting to Thomas' possible appointment because he is not a Malay-Muslim. The petition garnered more than 20,000 signatures as of Monday (Jun 4) evening.
Following the launch of that petition, another was put up online in support of Thomas for the Attorney-General post. This had chalked up nearly 30,000 signatures as of Monday evening.
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia's information chief Nasrudin Hassan also protested against the government's pick, saying that the candidate should be an individual "who can protect Islam as the official religion of the country".
The Star quoted him as saying: “It will be awkward if the newly appointed AG, who is a non-Muslim, or any individual for that matter, cannot carry out such a responsibility effectively.”
Defending its choice, Pakatan Harapan said that the appointment of Thomas, a respected legal name, would be the right signal to send to Malaysians and the rest of the world that the new government was serious about reforming the country's institutions, reported The Malaysian Insight.
By appointing Thomas, this would ensure a skilled litigator in the chambers to handle all high-profile cases, including the prosecution of individuals involved in the 1MDB corruption scandal, the report added.
Mahathir on Sunday said that "efforts are being made" to find a solution to the issue.
When asked about Thomas' links with finance minister Lim Guan Eng, having represented him in the past, Mahathir said it should not be an issue.
"Yes, he is a lawyer for everybody even for Barisan Nasional, and is just making an income," Mahathir said.
"We do matters according to the laws and the Federal Constitution, but the King is acting on the advice of the government," he added.
"We are holding on to our principles."