Malaysia’s king on Monday approved the appointment of Indian-origin lawyer Tommy Thomas as the new attorney general, Reuters reported. A palace statement said King Muhammad V had approved the appointment of the first person in 55 years from a minority community as attorney general.
Thomas’s predecessor Apandi Ali had cleared former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak of wrongdoing in a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal, after reports of financial mismanagement at the government-owned company 1Malaysia Development Berhad. After he lost the elections to his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad on May 9, he was barred from leaving the country and the case was reopened.
Thomas’s first task will be to handle prosecution in the corruption case involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad and Razak.
Groups representing the ethnic Malay majority had earlier rejected Thomas’s appointment. However, the palace said King Muhammad V had finalised Thomas’s name for the post on the advice of new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad and after consulting the heads of other royal households.
“The appointment will preserve the special rights of the Malays and Bumiputera and the status of Islam as the religion of the federation,” the palace statement read.
Thomas, an ethnic Indian Christian, has studied at the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics. He served as a member of the Bar Council twice – between 1984 and 1988, and 1993 to 2001.
The Malaysian Bar, a body of legal practitioners in the country, applauded Thomas’s appointment, saying 42 years of legal experience had sufficiently prepared him for his new role to advise the government, Malay Mail reported. “Tommy is the first practising lawyer to be appointed directly from the Malaysian Bar to be the attorney general,” Bar president George Varughese said. “His appointment bodes well for the government’s agenda of holistic institutional reforms.”