July 29, 2015
COMMENT: The appearance can be misleading. Malaysia’s newly minted Attorney-General, Mohamad Apandi Ali, 65, looks like someone belonging in the same class as Chief Secretary Hamsa Ali and Treasury Secretary Siregar–men of mixed parentage.
Malays of mixed parentage seem to be Najib’s favorite people for senior posts in his government. Another Malay who bears my family name, Reezal Merican, is now Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. I suspect that this is because Malays of mixed parentage going back to Nor Mohamed Yackop and the late Governor Ali Abul Hassan of Bank Negara Malaysia during the days of the Mahathir Administration are apparently boss pleasers, and can be trusted to do their duty to the Prime Minister, our King and country (in that order) without fear or favour.
Of course, one’s parentage or ethnicity should have no bearing on any appointment be it in public service or in the business world. But in practice public service appointments are political decisions made by the Prime Minister, not strictly on merit.
In appointing a former UMNO man as Malaysia’s top legal man with powers under Article 145 of our Constitution, our Prime Minister is creating a dangerous precedent and so is he in the case of the sacking of Gani Patail.
For all my criticisms of the former Attorney-General, I think Gani Patail’s unceremonious sacking violates the Article 145 (6). This hurried decision makes me suspect that he may be on to “something big” with regard to the 1MDB scandal that could affect Prime Minister Najib’s political future.
Even the recent Cabinet changes reflect Najib’s quest for political survival and as such, it is a strategic move to have all his 1MDB bases covered. Loyalty is the criterion. So, there is nothing to be excited about the latest Cabinet reshuffle . “Nothing is more important than the needs of Malaysia and the people – I will always put their interests above all others,”says Prime Minister Najib Razak. Trust him? Given his track record since taking over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2009, that statement is trite and hollow. Even the Marines (with due respects to the USMC) will not buy it.
It may be worthwhile to remind ourselves of Article 145 of the Federal Constitution which makes the Attorney-General a powerful principal legal adviser to the Government.
Article 145 of the Federal Constitution provides:
(1) 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.
(2) It shall be the duty of the Attorney-General to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Cabinet or any Minister upon such legal matters, and to perform such other duties of a legal character, as may from time to time be referred or assigned to him by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Cabinet, and to discharge the functions conferred on him by or under this Constitution or any other written law.
3) The Attorney-General shall have power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence, other than proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court or a court-martial.
3A) Federal law may confer on the Attorney-General power to determine the courts in which or the venue at which any proceedings which he has power under Clause (3) to institute shall be instituted or to which such proceedings shall be transferred.
(4) In the performance of his duties the Attorney-General shall have the right of audience in , and shall take precedence over any other person appearing before, any court or tribunal in the Federation.
(5) Subject to Clause (6), the Attorney-General shall hold office during the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and may at any time resign his office and, unless he is a member of the Cabinet, shall receive such remuneration as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may determine.
6) The person holding the office of Attorney-General immediately prior to the coming into operation of this Article shall continue to hold the office on terms and conditions not less favourable than those applicable to him immediately before such coming into operation and shall not be removed from office except on the like grounds and in the like manner as a judge of the Federal Court.
The new Attorney-General has awesome power and and with it, the heavy responsibility to uphold the Rule of Law, not Rule by a desperate Prime Minister whose only desire is to remain office by all and any means. As for his predecessor, we should ensure that the Najib administration observes the letter and spirit of Article 145(6) of our Constitution. –Din Merican