Task force gives damning appraisal of Tommy Thomas’ conduct as AG
Instances of meddling, baseless accusations, ignorance of procedures and laws, and conflict of interest are detailed in a lengthy report.
(MalaysiaNow) – A lack of experience and skills to manage the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), conduct which smacked of conflict of interest, cronyism, and blatant interference in the appointments of top judges are among a number of damning observations of Tommy Thomas during his short stint as the attorney-general, according to sources familiar with a lengthy report prepared by a special task force.
The over 800-page report prepared by the task force, set up late last year to look into allegations made by Thomas, was presented to the Cabinet last month.
A purported soft copy of the classified report is said to have been leaked online, and is the subject of a police investigation.
MalaysiaNow is unable to cite the contents of the report.
But a source close to the nine-month fact-finding assignment of the special task force said there had been damning observations about the conduct of the former attorney-general during office, including actions showing a lack of knowledge of Malaysian laws and his own jurisdiction.
The task force, comprising legal experts and former senior judicial officers headed by former Sarawak attorney-general Fong Joo Chung, was tasked with looking into the allegations made by Thomas in his autobiography, “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”.
However, unlike a royal inquiry, it had no mandate to compel witnesses to appear before it and was passed over by Thomas and the Bar Council.
The book had sparked criticism from both sides of the political divide as well as more than 240 police reports.
Thomas attracted reproval, among others, for his negative portrayal of his officers as well as what was said to be partisan and racially tinged narratives throughout the book.
Among others, he said that AGC officers were not qualified to handle high-profile cases such as those involving former prime minister Najib Razak, remarks that led to a strongly worded response from current attorney-general Idrus Harun, who said the book showed “narrow thinking from the brief experience of a man who has no understanding of the public service institution”.
“At the heart of these observations is the description of Thomas as someone who lacked the skills to head a huge government body such as the AGC,” a source privy to the findings of the nine-member task force told MalaysiaNow.
The source said the report by the task force was “meticulous and in great detail”, and cited examples of Thomas’ conduct to show his “ignorance of prevalent Malaysian laws”.
The report also said that he had overstepped his job scope, and appointed individuals for certain cases despite glaring conflicts of interest.
“His role in appointing a former schoolmate to head the Asia International Arbitration Centre (AIAC), after summarily dismissing its incumbent director Sundra Rajoo, was also investigated and explained in detail,” the source said.
Thomas is also accused of turning to private lawyers in disputes involving the government, such as Malaysia’s challenge to the European Commission’s ban on palm oil and the case involving the confiscation of luxury yacht Equanimity.
The yacht, belonging to Low Taek Jho – the businessman implicated in the theft of billions of ringgit from 1MDB – was confiscated by Indonesian authorities before being returned to Malaysia, where it was sold to Genting Bhd following discussions held by Thomas at his home.
“The report delves into details of how Thomas mocked his officers as lacking the expertise to handle the Equanimity, which the task force believed was enough to raise suspicions of his move to engage private lawyers,” the source said.
Interference in appointment of judges
The task force said while Thomas had no business in the appointment of judges, he had made no secret of the role he played in recommending names for top judges to then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“This was despite the fact that Thomas, being the AG, was not a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), the body tasked with recommending to the prime minister the judges for the superior courts.
“Yet, Thomas, by his own words, meddled in this,” the source said.
As a result, three names recommended by JAC were ignored.
“They included names for the posts of chief justice, president of the Court of Appeal, and chief judge of the High Court for Sabah and Sarawak.”
In July 2018, Richard Malanjum was named chief justice.
“But he was not the recommendation of JAC, which had then proposed Azahar Mohamed for the post.
“Similarly, Rohana Yusuf and Abdul Rahman Sebli, two names recommeded by JAC for the post of Court of Appeal president and chief judge for Sabah and Sarawak, were not considered.”
Ex-schoolmate given post
The task force also found instances of abuse of power by Thomas, when he accused Sundra, then director of the AIAC, of corruption based on anonymous letters.