It is not clear why Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (law and institutional reform) Azlina Othman Said wants a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) on former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ memoir.
She said the RCI would be more comprehensive than the task force set up by the former government.
Thomas’ memoir "My Story: Justice in Wilderness", published after he left office, raised questions about judicial appointments, selective prosecution and the interference of the executive in the judiciary.
Azlina agreed that the earlier task force was narrow in scope and focused too much on Thomas to the neglect of broader legal and constitutional issues.
She added that the RCI was not a form of revenge against Thomas but could lead to the examination of broader legal and constitutional matters pertaining to the separation of powers between the attorney-general and the public prosecutor.
Well, if the RCI is not intended to probe the allegations contained in Thomas’ memoir, what is the real reason for the RCI?
Why the need for the RCI to zero in on Thomas’ memoir unless the contents are objectionable?
In this respect, are there differences between the present government and the former except in the nature of the probe itself?
The task force was more vindictive in nature but I am not sure whether this is the real intention of the present government.
Azalina might be well-meaning but to use Thomas’ memoir as a launchpad stands the chance of giving a political slant to the RCI.
The former government wanted to punish Thomas for bringing up some unpalatable matters on the judiciary and the executive.
This is the reason why Thomas challenged the constitutionality of the task force.
Anyway, the matter is before the court for judicial adjudication.
It is not that the RCI is not important – it is far better than setting up ad hoc mechanisms to probe controversial issues.
My question is: why the RCI on Thomas’ memoir when there are many other outstanding issues that need national scrutiny?
The state of race relations is one area that needs an RCI. There are many others.
It is not that Thomas' memoir, if it contains serious allegations, cannot be probed. Probe by all means, without being guided by other considerations.
However, if these allegations have basis then there is a need to accept these truths and move forward.
I am not saying that Thomas is infallible. There is no need to agree with Thomas’ allegations, but these allegations can be countered in a proper manner without resorting to government-sanctioned probes.
If the purpose of the RCI is to focus on broader legal and constitutional matters with the objective of institutional reforms, then why the need to probe Thomas’ memoir? An RCI can be initiated without the need to go through Thomas’ memoir.
Whatever else can be said about Thomas, he and his team in the Attorney-General's Chambers should be credited for bringing charges against those who were involved in massive corruption.
It would be ironic to have a state-sanctioned probe against Thomas for pointing out what ails the present legal system in the government.
P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II and the assemblyman for Perai.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.