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Mahathir defends dismissal of ex-AG Apandi after Zeti's NFA court testimony

The former prime minister says Apandi's failure to act on reports by Bank Negara proves that he was not doing his duty as the attorney-general.

Staff Writers
3 minute read
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad today defended his move to dismiss Mohamed Apandi Ali as attorney-general despite the lawsuit later brought against him, saying recent court testimonies by ex-central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz that her report of wrongdoing by top 1MDB officials had been classified as no further action (NFA) were proof of "dereliction of duty" on Apandi's part. 

The former leader said Apandi, whose contract he terminated during his second tenure as prime minister, had sued him for wrongful dismissal although he was prepared to explain his decision to the court. 

In a statement, he cited as example Apandi's move to clear former prime minister Najib Razak of wrongdoing in relation to the 1MDB scandal.

"Yet when another attorney-general brought Najib's cases to court, three courts and nine judges found Najib guilty," he said. 

"Clearly Apandi as attorney-general did not study the case thoroughly before declaring that Najib had no case to answer.

"This again shows a dereliction of duty on the part of Apandi."

Zeti testified in court that Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) had recommended that the three top officials of 1MDB be charged over the company’s scandal.

She said her request for the trio to be charged was made to Apandi, but that no action was taken.

Last month, she testified that the investigation paper submitted by BNM to the Attorney-General's Chambers with the recommendation to initiate criminal prosecution and to charge 1MDB, including the senior officers, was classified as NFA.
Zeti said despite all of the evidence gathered and recorded by BNM in the investigation paper on 1MDB, Apandi, for reasons unknown, had on Sept 11, 2015 decided that it would be classified as NFA.

Mahathir said he was startled to read the reports that Apandi had taken no action.

"It seems to me like dereliction of duty," he added. 

Apandi filed a suit against Mahathir and the government on Oct 13, 2020, seeking, among others, a declaration that the termination of his contract as attorney-general by the former prime minister was invalid.

In his statement of claim, Apandi, who was a Federal Court judge before being appointed as attorney-general in 2015, also sought a declaration that Mahathir had abused his position as prime minister when Pakatan Harapan was in power from May 2018 to February 2020, and had caused a breach of contract between him and the government.

He also sought a declaration that there was a failure to comply with Article 145 of the Federal Constitution in his dismissal and that his sacking as attorney-general was unlawful, and therefore invalid.

The suit was settled at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in April last year, although Apandi's lawyers said the terms of the settlement could not be disclosed.

Law minister Azalina Othman Said meanwhile said in February that the terms of settlement were classified as confidential under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

She also said that the civil case was settled out of court with the consent of the government without any admission of liability.

But Mahathir said the government's agreement to settle meant it agreed that Apandi had been wrongfully dismissed. 

"I was not party to the settlement," he added. "I did not agree that I had wrongfully dismissed Apandi.

"But now, the report that he failed to take action on the report by Bank Negara proves that he was not doing his duty as the attorney-general. This further justifies his dismissal as attorney-general.

"That such an attorney-general should be compensated with unknown sums of money does not reflect well on the rule of law in this country."