Man of the Moment: Meet Attorney-General Tommy Thomas

June 5, 2018

Man of the Moment: Meet  Attorney-General Tommy Thomas

by Hafiz Yatim

Born in 1952 in Kuala Lumpur, the father of three received his early education at Victoria Institution. He then pursued his law degree at the University of Manchester in England and subsequently received an MSc from the London School of Economics. He then became a barrister at Middle Temple, London.–Hafiz Yatim

Malaysians woke up this morning to the news that Tommy Thomas has been appointed as the new attorney-general by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, replacing Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Born in 1952 in Kuala Lumpur, the father of three received his early education at Victoria Institution. He then pursued his law degree at the University of Manchester in England and subsequently received an MSc from the London School of Economics. He then became a barrister at Middle Temple, London.

He is a founder and partner at Tommy Thomas, a litigation firm with an office in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. According to the firm’s website, Thomas specialises in administrative law and judicial review; intellectual property; arbitration; land; banking and finance; oil and gas; commercial property; company law; securities law; constitutional law; and insolvency and wills.

He was involved in numerous landmark cases and appeared before the Privy Council, which was Malaysia’s highest court in London, until 1985.

Thomas has published two books titled “Anything But the Law: Essays on Politics and Economics” and “Abuse of Power: Selected Works on the Law and Constitution”.

Besides being a well-known lawyer, he also participated in several Bersih rallies in the past.

An active member of the Malaysian Bar, he held the post of secretary of the Bar Council from 1995 to 1997.

Among his well-known cases were Metramac vs Fawziah Holdings, and as noted by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he appeared for BN in several cases concerning election petitions.

Thomas has also appeared for the PAS Kelantan and Terengganu oil royalty case against Petronas and the federal government, and also represented Selangor government lawyer Fahda Nur Ahmad Kamar against Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) in the latter’s bid to cite the former for contempt of court.

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Thomas also represented Malayan Communist Party Secretary-General Chin Peng in his application to return to Malaysia, and former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in contempt proceedings filed against him by Apandi.

Meanwhile, Thomas’ law firm greeted his appointment with pride.

“He successfully led our team in two of the best-known bond recovery cases in the courts of Malaysia: Pesaka Astana and Aldwich Berhad. And as corporate asset recovery is topical, with the government focused on recovering the assets of 1MDB, there is no doubt in our mind that they have appointed Malaysia’s finest barrister in that field, with the knowledge, experience and industry to lead the 1MDB litigation, whether civil or criminal,” said the firm in a statement.

The firm noted that Thomas was an established corporate and commercial barrister, having acted successfully in some of the landmark cases on corporate debt and asset recoveries, such as Amos William Dawe and Mosbert; Lian Keow v Overseas Credit Finance; and Bank Bumiputra v Lorrain Osman.

More recently, he acted for the Securities Commission against Swisscash, the worldwide Ponzi scheme hatched in Malaysia – tracing the funds in the Ponzi scheme to banks in Hong Kong, and the Jersey and British Virgin Islands; obtaining worldwide Mareva injunctions, and what the firm claimed to be the largest reparation of funds for the victims of the Ponzi scheme.

According to the firm, Thomas had handled some of Malaysia’s largest and most complex cases, and in addition to his outstanding track record on commercial cases, he had a strong public law practice, having acted on major judicial reviews and constitutional cases.

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“A significant percentage of his practice has been pro bono work, for the less privileged and oppressed.While we shall obviously miss him, we are delighted for our country, as Thomas’ combined talent, integrity, legal knowledge and experience, gives Malaysia one of its best and brightest barristers as its next Attorney-General. We wish him every success as Attorney-General of Malaysia,” it said.

Thomas met Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Prime Minister’s Department at 8.30am today.

The Attorney-General – The Promise and the Reality

June 5, 2018

The Attorney-General – The Promise and the Reality

The position of Attorney-General, should have gone to a Member of Parliament- cum- Cabinet Minister in the interest of public accountability and to avoid the dangers of a conflict of interest.


By Chandra Muzaffar

The appointment of Tommy Thomas as the new Attorney-General has generated renewed interest in the ruling coalition’s Election Manifesto. In the Manifesto, Pakatan Harapan has articulated lucidly in Janji (promise) 15 the importance of separating the office of Public Prosecutor from that of the Attorney-General. Because of the danger of a conflict of interest, it argues that the two roles should be separated. It pledges to take immediate action towards this end.

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The Attorney-General would be chosen from among qualified Members of Parliament and he would be appointed as a Minister serving as the legal adviser to the government. The Public Prosecutor on the other hand would have autonomy to conduct prosecution without fear or favour.

The Pakatan Harapan government has not lived up to this pledge. Thomas is not a member of parliament. He is not accountable in the legal sense to the people through an elected parliament. Of course, he is required, like all other public officials, to uphold the Malaysian Constitution. While his formal appointment is by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, his real nexus of power is with the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who will exercise authority over him and direct his actions.

We have witnessed in recent times what this nexus between the Attorney-General and Prime Minister can lead to. The former Attorney-General protected Prime Minister Najib Razak though the latter’s misdeed was blatant. The A-G saw himself as serving Najib’s interests.

One of the reasons why such stark abuse of roles did not occur in the sixties and seventies was because the Attorney-General in those years was responsible to Parliament through the Cabinet. This practice was brought to an end in the early eighties with the ascendancy of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. Parliamentary accountability was replaced with a direct relationship between the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister.

Dr. Mahathir is of the view that Thomas has the skills to fight the 1MDB case in court. If specific skills are needed the government can always draw upon the services of legal brains at home and abroad. They can be appointed as consultants or public prosecutors as they were in the past in the Batu Putih case or in the second Anwar Ibrahim trial. Tommy Thomas himself can play that role instead of installing him as Attorney-General.

The position of Attorney-General, I reiterate, should have gone to a Member of Parliament- cum- Cabinet Minister in the interest of public accountability. I had hoped that since at least ten Cabinet positions have yet to be filled and there has been no appointee so far from Sabah or Sarawak an MP from one of those states would be made the Attorney-General. Since it is a senior position it would raise the status of law-givers from those states. It would also make the citizens of Sabah and Sarawak feel that they matter to the Malaysian Federation.

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MP for Selangau, Sarawak Baru Bian–Minister of Law in M-2.0 Cabinet?

There is an MP with a legal background from Sarawak who would have fitted the bill. Baru Bian, the Pakatan Harapan MP for Selangau is an experienced advocate and solicitor who for decades has fought for native land rights. There is no reason why legislators like him — a Christian Bumiputera — should not be conferred the exalted role of Attorney-General in the Federal Cabinet.

Tommy Thomas, whatever his strengths, will continue to be burdened by concerns that have been ventilated through the alternative media. What is his record in prosecuting high profile criminal cases? How fluent is he in the national language which is after all the principal language in the administration of justice in our country? Why did he abandon the nation in the wake of the 1987 ISA swoop and the 1988 judicial crisis when some of us went to jail and campaigned against great odds for justice for the sacked judges?

Chandra Muzaffar is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


Malaysia: Murder Case Cover-Up

June 5, 2018

Murder Cover-Up Case: Najib, Rosmah and Lawyers Cecil Abraham & Shafee Abdullah in a legal Fix

by Sarawak Report

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Cecil Abraham and Partners enable clients to realise solutions through clarity of thought and advice. We deliver smart and efficient dispute resolution solutions.

The significance of a court ruling in KL today (June 4, 2018) was perhaps muted by the extraordinary excitement of these moving times.  However, that ruling has opened the floodgates against a cover-up exercise that has strained the Najib administration for over a decade.

Sarawak Report has been covering the dogged litigation of widow Selvi Bala and her former lawyer Americk Sidhu (now himself a witness in the case) against 9 defendants, whom she holds responsible for blackmailing her husband PI (private investigator) Bala after he tried to speak out as a witness over the murder of the Mogolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Bala, like others, had considered the trial a travesty designed to protect ‘high level’ individuals caught up in Altantuya’s threats to expose both her knowledge about kickbacks on a French submarine deal with the former Defence Minister and later PM, Najib Razak, and also her alleged affairs with Najib and his proxy ‘defence consultant’ Razak Baginda.

The private investigator had issued a statutory declaration to the effect that both Baginda and Altantuya had told him that Najib had been her lover and that he was certain that Najib’s two bodyguards, who were found guilty of shooting then blowing up Altantuya’s body, would not have done so without orders.

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Today’s court hearing went to the heart of the cover-up that allegedly followed Bala’s declaration back in 2008, which Najib and his lawyers had managed to keep the matter out of court by one method or another right up until the last election.

Selvi’s case was that 9 defendants had conspired to force her husband Bala to change his declaration, in order to leave out Najib’s name.  These defendants were primarily Najib and his wife Rosmah, two of Najib’s brothers, a business partner of Rosmah, Deepak Jaikashan, (whom she used as fixer for the occasion) and some lawyers, primarily Cecil Abraham and his son Sunil, who were close to Najib.

Together, Selvi claimed, they had threatened, blackmailed and bribed Bala to flee the country with his family, after a night during which he was forced to sign a new declaration drawn up by Cecil Abraham and son Sunil. In 2013 Bala returned and retracted that second declaration, shortly before dying of a heart attack.

During the course of Selvi’s case for compensation, owing to the impact on her family, all of these defendants successfully pressured the courts to strike out the case against them (on highly controversial grounds accepted by Najib’s Chief Justice Raus) except for Deepak, who had since 2012 made clear he was prepared to back up Bala’s story.

This meant that Selvi’s litigation was continuing throughout last year, but against Deepak only.

Deepak’s Exposure 

Thus by 2017 Deepak alone was defending Selvi’s demands for compensation, keeping the case hanging on by a thread.  Nevertheless, the world could see that if Selvi gained a ruling in her favour by the court against this last defendant, then that judgement would confirm the complicity of all the others, including Najib and Rosmah, in the shocking cover-up of evidence in a murder trial that pointed heavily towards their additional complicity either in that killing or, at the very least, in the failure to prosecute those responsible for ordering the death of a woman who was blackmailing Najib and his proxy.

As Sarawak Report exclusively reported at the time, Deepak had no desire to plead other than guilty for his part, since he plainly wished for the greater guilt of those who had engaged him to fix the cover-up to be exposed.

We published an exclusive copy of the original defence drawn up by Deepak’s lawyers, which acknowledged all of Selvi’s allegations and named Najib and Rosmah as the “masterminds and beneficiaries” of the conspiracy to cover-up PI Bala’s evidence.

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However, moments from putting that document into court last November, Najib’s agents intevened in the form of another lawyer, Shafee Abdullah (pic above), who together with the Tabung Haji Chairman, Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, liased between Deepak and the Prime Minister to force a change of story.

As Deepak has informed Sarawak Report, Najib was abusing his powers as PM-Finance Minister to hold huge tax bills over Deepak’s head, which he offered to drop if Deepak cooperated.  Ironically, those bills were linked to land deals that Deepak had conducted on behalf of Najib’s own wife Rosmah, for whom he was acting as a proxy, says the businessman.

To get off millions in tax demands, Deepak agreed to play ball and allow Shafee to place a new defence that denied all Selvi’s allegations.  However, right up to the election Deepak and his ‘new lawyer’ Shafee wrangled with each other and the court, finding excuses to avoid a hearing where Deepak could be cross examined about his change of tune.

What a Difference an Election Makes

When the case returned to court after the election what a different story Deepak had to tell.  In an exclusive interview with Sarawak Report last month the businessman had already confided that the endless hospital appointments, designed to keep him out of the witness box to avoid embarrassment before polling day, were of course a sham.


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Dato’ Panglima Azeez Abdul Rahim–The Fixer

Azeez, says Deepak, had organised a doctor to provide a certificate and place him overnight in hospital, a matter he conspired over with Shafee. Deepak has played recordings to Sarawak Report of those conversations between himself, lawyer Shafee and the agent of Najib, Azeez, where the fake hospital appointments were arranged.

Today, again before the judge, Deepak admitted that his first and not the second defence devised by Shafee was the honest statement he plans to stand by.  He also made clear he had never formally appointed Shafee, who had represented him only through blackmail.

Both these points were accepted by the judge, leaving Deepak to face cross-examination on the case at the next hearings, as well as Shafee himself and the other witnesses named in the case.

Face The Music

The consequences for lawyer Shafee, now accused of faking hospital appointments and blackmailing a reluctant client on behalf of a separate interest, namely Najib and Rosmah, the prospect of the later stages of this civil trial are dismal.  Not least, because Shafee is likely to be also asked about a combined payment by Najib of RM9 million out of 1MDB money, for services not yet explained.

And what about two other Najib associated lawyers in the case?  Selvi’s petition stated that on the night her husband was blackmailed into changing his statutory declaration, in order to remove all reference to Najib, the prominent lawyer Cecil Abraham and his son Sunil joined Bala and Deepak overnight in a hotel room at the Hilton Sentral hotel in KL, in order to draw up that spurious new document.

Deepak, in his first and now revived defence, admitted this claim to be true and confirmed the role of the two lawyers, who had been called into the matter by Najib together with two of his brothers, who helped handle the situation that night. Americk Sidhu is expected to put in a complaint to the Bar Association shortly regarding this disturbing conduct.

Given the extensive and unhealthy ties between Najib and these lawyers, the present reported role of the father and son as key advisors to the Agong, currently resisting the appointment of the new Prime Minister’s choice of Attorney General is disturbing.  Are they representing the interests of the present administration or the old PM?

Most at risk from the developments in this marathon case, launched by a single widow to avenge her dead husband and compensate her family, are the former PM himself and his wife, described by the defendant himself as ‘masterminds and beneficiaries’ of the ‘conspiracy’ to silence Bala.

For ten years this couple have moved heaven and high water to hold this case at bay, now they no longer have the power to do so and the reason for their apparent attempts to obstruct the course of justice seem set to become fully known to all.

P.S. Tommy Thomas is now the new Attorney-General of Malaysia. All attempts to scuttle his nomination by Prime Minister and his Pakatan Harapan partners have failed.–Din Merican

Mahathir 2.0 Government stands firm on Tommy Thomas as Attorney-General of Malaysia

June 4, 2018

Mahathir 2.0 Government stands firm on Tommy Thomas as Attorney-General of Malaysia

Image result for Malaysia's Yoda Dr. Mahathir

Malaysia’s 7th Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Wan Azizah Ismail

Tommy Thomas’ support for a secular state is not amongst the reasons why his candidacy for Attorney General was rejected by the King, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir.

Several other reasons for the impasse have been touted, amongst them  allegations that since Thomas has represented Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in his corruption cases, he would not be an impartial A-G.

“Lim Guan Eng is in the government and Finance Minister, there is no reason for Thomas to be Lim’s friend,” Dr Mahathir told the press after a state Pakatan Harapan meeting in Kedah on Sunday (June 3).

He said Thomas was Lim’s lawyer, but said at the same time Thomas has also represented Barisan Nasional leaders. “Yes, he is a lawyer for everybody even for Barisan Nasional, and is just making an income,” Mahathir said.

On whether Putrajaya will propose a new candidate if the King rejects Thomas’ candidacy, Dr Mahathir said they will follow the law.

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Tommy Thomas is eminently qualified to be Malaysia’s Attorney-General

“We do matters according to the laws and the Federal Constitution, but the King is acting on advice of the government,” he said.”We are holding on to our principles,” he added.

Article 145 (1) of the Federal Constitution states 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”.

Malaysia: Standoff over Choice of Prominent Lawyer Tommy Thomas as Attorney-General

June 2, 2018

Malaysia: Standoff over Choice of  Prominent Lawyer Tommy Thomas as  Attorney-General


A CONSTITUTIONAL crisis could be looming between the newly-elected Pakatan Harapan government and the Malay rulers over the appointment of the new Attorney-General.

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More than 10 days ago, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad wrote to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong asking that he remove Apandi Ali as the A-G and replace him with top lawyer and constitutional expert Tommy Thomas, the unanimous choice of all PH leaders.

Amanah, Bersatu, DAP, and PKR felt that the appointment of a respected legal name would be the right signal to send to Malaysians and the rest of the world that the new government was serious about reforming the country’s institutions.

Also, this appointment would ensure the presence of a skilled litigator in the chambers to handle all high-profile cases, including the prosecution of those involved in the 1MDB scandal.

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Mr. Prime Minister,please stand firm on this issue: No constitutional monarch or sultan has the power to obstruct the work of a duly elected government. Power is with the Malaysian people. I am shocked to learn of this impasse. The business of government is being interrupted by our King who is bound to accept the advice of the Prime Minister.–Din Merican


But that letter from Dr Mahathir to the King has not been acted on, leading to a standoff between the popularly-elected government and the Palace.

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Instead, there have been messages relayed from the Palace, seeking that PH drop its choice of Tommy Thomas. Dr. Mahathir was asked to consider several candidates, including a former high court judge and a serving court of appeal judge.

The Malaysian Insight understands that other Malay rulers have also supported the King’s position, adamant that the A-G should be a Malay/Muslim.

This impasse and possible constitutional crisis was alluded to by two noted bloggers close to PH.

In a post titled “Another Crisis Brewing: Country is Not Out Of Danger Yet”, Syed Akbar Ali said that Dr Mahathir’s choice for the A-G position was being blocked because he was not a Malay or Muslim.

“There is nothing in the federal constitution which says that non-Malays and non-Muslims cannot be appointed as the attorney-general, ” he noted, adding that cabinet and key civil service appointments were the sole discretion of the PM.

Dr Mahathir and PH leaders have refused to back down. They still believe that Thomas is the best man for the job. The plan is to offer the 66-year-old a two-year contract as the A-G. He ‎wants to return to private practice after that.

At the core of this standoff is the question: Should key appointments to the government be the purview of a popularly-elected prime minister, or must he bow to the wishes of a constitutional monarch?

‎Blogger Kadir Jasin noted that the federal constitution puts clear limits on the authority of a constitutional monarch.

As for this notion that all key positions should be held by Malays, the former newspaper editor offered a scathing response.

“What’s the use of having Malays in high positions if that Malay is cruel, corrupt, and someone who collaborates with thieves and speculators?” he asked, adding that integrity was more important than race.

Political observers said that the Malay rulers had no reason to worry about Malay rights being overlooked under a non-Malay A-G.

The duty of looking after Malay interests and Islam can easily be ‎handed over to the Solicitor-General.

Observers also warn that the Malay rulers should be careful because there is already a view among Malaysians that there was an unnecessary delay by the palace in swearing in Dr Mahathir as prime minister after GE14.

Given the euphoria in the country and the reservoir of goodwill and affection Dr Mahathir has earned from ordinary Malaysians for saving the country from Najib Razak, ‎it is clear who they will support in this impasse. – June 2, 2018.

Malaysia: The Rule of Law is not an Arbitrary Rule

May 25, 2018

Malaysia: The Rule of Law is not an Arbitrary Rule

By Dr. Kua Kia Soong

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The new Pakatan Harapan government claims to be serious about implementing the Rule of Law in this country without fear or favour instead of the arbitrary application of the law which we have witnessed for the past 61 years. However, against this principle, some of the recent changes in government institutions and actions by the new administration are cause for concern.

The Attorney-General must be TRULY independent

First, it has been reported that Lim Guan Eng’s lawyer plans to make representations to the new Attorney-General for the corruption charges against him to be dropped or changed. After the shenanigans associated with the last “BN-friendly” Attorney-General that we are presently beholding, I’m surprised the new PH government would want to be seen to be doing the same with a “PH-friendly” A-G.

Now, if we are not to slide into banana republicanism instead of upholding the Rule of Law as claimed by the new Prime Minister, the new Attorney-General should not only be strictly independent but must be SEEN to be independent and not an instrument of the ruling party. The Malaysian people did not sack the old regime to put in place the same old same old.

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People have a sense of justice. We do not tolerate double standards and the Attorney-General has to be scrupulously neutral if he is not to be accused of partiality. Rule of law implies that every person is subject to the law and that includes the powerful and the well-connected.

When the Attorney-General’s office is abused for political ends, we will no longer have faith in the Rule of Law. Once the system is not seen to be fair, people will lose faith in the legal system in this country and we will have anarchy. It is the rule of law applied without fear or favour that protects individuals, and society as a whole, from arbitrary measures and safeguards personal liberties.

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What are the terms of reference of the Council of Elders?

Then we had a ‘Council of Elders’ or Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) thrust upon us with unknown terms of reference and without constitutional precedence. Before further statements and actions are taken by the CEP, Malaysians want answers to important questions:

1. Is this Council merely an advisory function to the Cabinet or just to the Prime Minister?

2. Was the Chairman of this Council elected by the Cabinet or appointed by the Prime Minister?

3. Is its sell-by date 100 days or is that just Daim’s own agenda that he recently announced?

4. Will a place be reserved  in CEP for Tun Mahathir when he hands over the Prime Ministership to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim?

This is why the specific terms of reference for the CEP must be clear for all to see. Now, if this Council is merely an advisory role, why did Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim warn us to be wary of Daim Zainuddin in his recent interview with Malaysiakini:

“…people are also expressing deep consternation that he has been unable to explain some major problems in the past…People say there’s no need to bring old baggage, which is true, but to me, if you want to talk about democratic accountability, it must not stop at (former Prime Minister) Najib (Abdul Razak).”

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Put an end to Ministerial and Prime Ministerial prerogative in our laws

Many of our laws have a rider that allows the Minister to have the final say with interpretation of the law. Other laws such as the Petroleum Development Act 1974 gives inordinate power to the Prime Minister as pointed out by Former UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy:

“Section 3 of the Petroleum Development Act 1974 empowers the Prime Minister to direct the Board of Petronas as he deemed fit. Such directions are binding on the Board notwithstanding any written law to the contrary.” (Foreword to ‘Racism & Racial Discrimination in Malaysia’ by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM 2015:xii)

Such prerogative powers should not be in the hands of ministers and the Prime Minister if we truly believe in the Rule of Law and work should start to clean up all such laws to ensure they are “people-friendly”.

Want of transparency, accountability and good governance in public administration and government-linked corporations has brought the system of governance into an appalling state. The blatant abuse of power resulting in misuse of public funds with impunity led to the fall of the old regime. Malaysians expect better laws, proper procedures and transparent processes. In other words, we want Rule of Law, not arbitrary rule.

Dr. Kua Kia Soong is the Adviser for SUARAM.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.