#Letter to Editor

Six judges have been named so far as being considered by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for the position of the Attorney General.

Nothing of this is official as all the names are mentioned by sources with supposed inside knowledge.

The names had been leaked in two separate news reports, and each report claiming that the prime minister is aware of these six potential candidates.

Article 145(1) of the Federal Constitution says that 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”.

So for any potential AG candidate, getting the prime minister’s green light first is the real task.

For the record, the first sourced story appeared in The Star on Dec 15, and mentioned the names of Justices Ahmad Fairuz Zainol Abidin, Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh and Kamaludin Md Said.

Fairuz and Wan Ahmad Farid are currently serving as High Court judges while Kamaludin is a Court of Appeal judge.

This was followed by the FreeMalaysiaToday newsportal on Dec 21 that mentioned the names of Federal Court judge Zabidin Diah and Court of Appeal judges Yaacob Sam and Abdul Jalil.

Judges may be in running round become next AG-/

As mentioned earlier, both reports quoted sources.

Current AG Idrus Azizan Harun’s contract expires next March but he is said to be willing to step down earlier if the prime minister wants him to do so.

It is common for an incoming prime minister to pick his own AG to suit his political needs.

However some of the judges supposedly in Anwar’s consideration would fail the smell test in the very first hurdle.

Why? Because some were involved in criminal cases that had involved Anwar or Najib Razak, whose party Umno is now Anwar’s safety bet to form and run the unity government.

Justice Zabidin, for example had played a vital role in the Saiful Sodomy case against Anwar in 2008. Would Anwar want this judge as his AG?

Justices Yaacob and Abdul Karim meanwhile have given decisions against Najib. Would Umno agree with the prime minister’s decision to appoint either of them, especially when there are talks that the party is seeking an urgent pardon for Najib?

Apart from these “political disqualifications”, seniority among judges is also a factor.

This means the potential candidates from the High Court might be less sexy than ones from the Court of Appeal of the Federal Court (Art 145 (1) of the Federal Constitution).

This would possibly rule out Justices Fairuz and Wan Ahmad Farid, both serving as High Court judges at present.

It has been mentioned that judges would be better suited to become an AG as they would have handled criminal and civil cases as judges, and as such would have sufficient knowledge and experience in advising the government.

It must be noted that the late Mohtar Abdullah (1994-2000), Apandi Ali (2015-2018) and Idrus (March 2020) all came from the bench to be appointed AG.

However there had also been AG’s appointed from within.

One such person was Abdul Gani Patail (2002-2015) who was appointed the new AG after being the head of the prosecution unit in the AG Chambers. Mohtar himself had been a deputy public prosecutor early in his career.

There have also been promotions for Solicitor Generals (SG) to become the AG – effectively the second man in command taking over the top post.

Abdul Kadir Yusof was the SG when he was appointed the AG in 1963.

Abu Talib Othman was the SG from 1979 to 1980 before he was moved up to become the AG from 1980 to 1993.

More recently, Engku Nor Faizah Engku Atek (SG from 2016 to 2020) was made the acting AG for the briefest of time between Tommy Thomas and Idrus – from Feb 28, 2020 to March 6, 2020.

Going by this precedence, the current holder of the SG’s post must also be in consideration apart from all the judges to be the new AG.

Some argue that such appointments would ensure continuity and be free from political influence.

Faridah Mansur is a former high-ranking civil servant.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of ANT




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