Saturday, January 22, 2022

Moves underway to strip ex-AG of ‘Tan Sri’ title over remarks on judicial officers

This is the latest development in a string of protests over remarks Thomas made in his autobiography, 'My Story: Justice in the Wilderness'.

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Public legal and judicial officers are planning a move to strip Tommy Thomas of his “Tan Sri” title, following the former attorney-general’s suggestions questioning his officers’ capability to handle high-profile criminal cases, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

It is understood that moves to recommend this to the palace have already started through petitions as well as a resolution by the Judicial and Legal Services Officers’ Association, or Jalsoa.

“The move is to defend the integrity of judicial officers after being insulted by the very boss they served under. It is time that a strong message is sent to public office holders,” a source told MalaysiaNow.

Jalsoa, whose first president was the late Salleh Abas who passed away last month, brings together officers in the public legal profession.

The association is among those who condemned Thomas’ book, “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, for remarks seen as derogatory to the government lawyers and officers at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, which Thomas headed under Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) administration.

A PDF version of the complete book has also been making rounds, angering its Petaling Jaya-based publisher.

Thomas, a private lawyer who was appointed as AG a month after PH’s election victory in 2018, was awarded the Darjah Panglima Setia Mahkota, which carries the title “Tan Sri”, by Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah in September 2019.

The award was made on the recommendation of then-prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has since joined several prominent names in disputing Thomas’ version of events during his brief administration.

Checks on the LinkedIn professional social media page for Thomas’ law firm showed generous use of the title “Tan Sri” in addressing him.

Tommy Thomas returned to his law firm as a consultant following his brief stint as the attorney-general.

The revocation of royal awards is nothing new as many senior politicians have been stripped of their titles for being convicted of crimes as well as for making controversial remarks.

In 2014, the sultan of Selangor stripped Anwar Ibrahim of a royal award carrying the “Datuk Seri” title for questioning the ruler’s decision not to appoint the PKR president’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the state menteri besar.

Anwar, who was conferred similar titles from other rulers, continues to use the “Datuk Seri” honorific.

Thomas, however, has no royal titles other than the one he received in 2019.

Much of the protest against Thomas stems from his claim that his officers were not qualified to handle high-profile criminal and corruption cases such as those involving former prime minister Najib Razak.

Thomas had said that he was forced to outsource such cases to private lawyers.

Among others, Thomas said he wanted the prosecution in the Najib trial 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,” he wrote.

He said he then turned to “experienced criminal lawyers in the Bar with whom I could work”.

The remarks drew strong response from Thomas’ successor Idrus Harun, a former Court of Appeal judge with more than three decades of experience in the judicial service.

“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,” Idrus said yesterday, adding that government lawyers have won many high-profile cases.

Earlier this week, the High Court found former Felda chairman Isa Samad guilty of nine counts of corruption and sentenced him to six years in jail and a fine of RM15.45 million.

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