Attorney-General Idrus Harun has spoken in strong defence of his staff in the wake of suggestions by his predecessor that the Attorney-General’s Chambers lacks competent legal officers which forced several high-profile cases to be delegated to lawyers from the private sector.
“I would like to emphasise and give my assurance that I will not be influenced by the contents of the book that clearly show narrow thinking from the brief experience of a man who has no understanding of the public service institution, especially the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the very functions of the AG,” said Idrus, referring to the book “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, an autobiography of former AG Tommy Thomas.
He said the comments by Thomas amounted to a “blatant insult to our legal institutions that we have come to respect and cherish”.
Idrus, a former Court of Appeal judge with more than three decades of experience in the judicial service, said he had full confidence in his officers, adding that they had shown the “ability, expertise, commitment and dedication” to carry out their responsibilities without fear or favour.
“Indeed, I am proud that since the publication of the book, the officers have managed to get judgments favouring the government in high-profile cases,” Idrus said, in a possible reference to yesterday’s verdict by the High Court which sentenced former Felda chairman Isa Samad to jail after he was convicted of corruption.
“This clearly shows the ability of legal officers to handle court cases at the same, if not better, level as private lawyers,” he said.
Idrus added that officers at the AGC are diligent and have sacrificed their time outside of working hours in performing their duties.
Thomas in his book had suggested that the AGC was more relaxed than it was during his time as a private lawyer.
He said when he first started work during the fasting month, it was “rather quiet and slow in the AGC, particularly compared to the hurly-burly of private practice, and the incessant demands of clients”.
Thomas also claimed that he was informed by Manoj Kurup, a senior prosecutor at the AGC, that no one in his team had expertise in cross-examining witnesses for the impending SRC International case against former prime minister Najib Razak.
“I replied that this would not pose a problem, because I enjoyed cross-examination, and would be happy to undertake it in the SRC case,” Thomas wrote.
Thomas further said he had personally checked the draft of charges against Najib as the case would attract global press coverage.
He said he wanted to expect the prosecution to deliver a “professional presentation” that was free from mistakes and errors.
“In short, I could not find an AGC officer of sufficient experience, expertise, with the ability to work independently and to lead the preparation in my absence,” Thomas wrote in his book.
He said he then turned to “experienced criminal lawyers in the Bar with whom I could work”.
He said he selected Sulaiman Abdullah and Gopal Sri Ram, describing the latter, a former Federal Court judge, as someone “keen” to take on the case.