In a historic decision, Malaysia’s council of rulers has decided to appoint Tommy Thomas as the new attorney-general, making him the first non-Muslim to hold the post since the country was formed in 1963. Thomas appointment, which was proposed by newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad nearly two weeks ago, will see the departure of Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali. The council of rulers comprises the country’s nine sultanates.
In a statement Monday, the palace said: “The appointment will preserve the special rights of the Malays and Bumiputera (sons of the soil) and the status of Islam as the religion of the federation.”
Thomas is an ethnic Indian Christian who has experience in legal for over 40 years. He is widely regarded as one of the top lawyers in Mayalsia. A member of the Bar Council for over a decade, Thomas served as editor of its publication, Insaf, from 1984-87. He is currently involved in the largest litigation arising out of the ill-fated Malaysian Airline MH370’s disappearance. According to his website, Thomas has fought more than 150 reported cases. He is also a published author.
His appointment has been marred by protests from Malaysia’s ethnic Malay majority, which makes up nearly 60 per cent of the population or around 32 million people. Representatives of the Malay community had opposed the Prime Minister’s recommendation, triggering racial tensions in the country.
Once appointed, Thomas will be tasked with prosecuting those involved in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) political scandal, in which former prime minister Najib Razak was accused of money laundering. While the multi-billion dollar scam had led to the downfall of Razak, he was cleared of all charges by the former AG. After winning last month’s election, Mahathir had said there was enough evidence to reopen the case.