Argument against non-Malay, non-Muslim AG flawed

PETALING JAYA: The arguement against the appointment of Tommy Thomas as the next attorney-general (AG) because of his race and religion is flawed as the country had three non-Malay, non-Muslims persons in this post from 1957 to 1974.

The non-Malay-Muslim AGs who have served in the past include Thomas Vernor Alexander Brodie (1955-1959), Cecil M. Sheridan (1959-1963) and Athi Nahappan (1970-1974).

"There should be no objection now, looking at history. There is a precedent for it already. There is no confusion now," Constitutional law expert at Universiti Malaya Gurdial Singh Nijar (pix) was quoted by The Malaysian Insight as saying today.

He pointed out that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) had no problem appointing them then.

"The A-G is the lawyer for the government. The government must be comfortable with that particular lawyer to accept whatever advice he gives," he said.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said there is no legal basis for the AG to be involved in syariah proceedings, and he can only advise the government or the King on them.

"The AG is basically the chief legal adviser to the government on essential issues regarding the law and constitution. Therefore, why should his or her race or religion be a criterion? Furthermore, the A-G is constitutionally barred from being involved in syariah proceedings," he told the news portal.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Bar said today it is "alarmed and deeply troubled" over the reported impasse in the appointment.

It said the Federal Constitution states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong must act on the advice of the prime minister to appoint the new AG, to perform his role of a constitutional monarch.

"As a constitutional monarch, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has a constitutional duty to abide by the Federal Constitution, which clearly stipulates that His Majesty must act on the advice of the Prime Minister," Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said in a statement.

"The Yang di-Pertuan Agong must, therefore, appoint the person, as per the advice of the Prime Minister, as the new Attorney General, and end the impasse without delay."

It pointed to the Article 145(1) of the Federal Constitution that says: "The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a person who is qualified to be a judge of the Federal Court to be the Attorney General for the Federation."

"The exercise of the constitutional duties by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in the appointment of the new Attorney General should not be stifled by extraneous views that take into consideration any criteria that are without constitutional basis, based on irrelevant considerations, or which could be deemed to be arbitrary or discriminatory.

"The Yang di-Pertuan Agong must perform the role of a constitutional monarch strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Constitution," George said.