No double standards in fight against graft.
- Disassociate from acts and omissions of the past decades which brought disgrace to our legal system
- Liberate from the shackles of injustice, zero tolerance for interference or obstruction of administering justice
- Regain lustre of halcyon days of an era gone by
Attorney-General Tommy Thomas has urged all parties involved in the administration of justice to begin a new journey to promote justice in Malaysia.
In his first address as the top prosecutor and legal advisor for the government, Thomas said this is the paramount duty of those who have gathered at the annual Legal Year event today, whether as representatives of the judicial branch, as the public sector lawyers acting for the executive branch of government or members of the private Bar.
“We must publicly undertake and pledge to each other, and to the nation, our intention, dedication and commitment to disassociate ourselves with the acts and omissions of the past decades which have brought disgrace to our legal system, and to begin a new journey to promote justice and reject injustice,” Thomas said.
“In other words, the law must be liberated from the shackles of injustice and allowed to flower, as was the intention when our Merdeka voyage began in 1957 and 1963.”
Thomas lamented that the administration of justice has not been immune from the cancer of corruption which spread in the environment created by the former government.
He said the many scandals that involved judges, lawyers, prosecutors and litigants for at least three decades since the judicial crisis of 1988 are well remembered.
“What must be clear is that from henceforth the new government will not tolerate any interference or obstruction of the administration of justice.
“The full force of the law will be applied against wrongdoers. If the Malaysian legal system is to regain the lustre that it enjoyed during the halcyon days of Lord President Mohd Suffian Hashim, Lord President Raja Azlan Shah (as His Majesty was then known as) and Justice Eusoffe Abdoolcader, the stream of justice must not be polluted,” he said.
The attorney-general pointed out that the opening of the new Legal Year provides a fitting opportunity for all at the forefront of the administration of justice to ask and reflect how they can contribute to the cause of justice in 2019 and the next coming years, following the expectations of Malaysians as expressed by their ballot last May.
“There is absolutely no doubt that one of the key factors leading to the defeat of the Najib Razak administration was the perception of the ordinary man in the street that the then prime minister and his close associates were above the law, notwithstanding the glaring injustices ‘inter alia’ occasioned by the 1MDB scandal,” Thomas said.
“The double standards applied by law enforcers undermined public confidence in our legal institutions.”
“Democracy saved us”
He said that when the history of Malaysia is written, scholars would regard the outcome of the 14th general elections on May 9, 2018, as a landmark event – a turning point in the nation’s evolution into a truly functioning democracy.
He heralded the voters who defied the expectations of the world and Malaysia itself to peacefully propel Pakatan Harapan to power, thereby ending 61 years of uninterrupted one-party rule.
“When 2018 began, it seemed much more likely that Malaysia would continue to be dragged downwards by the weight of corruption and kleptocracy, squandering its potential and becoming the ‘Zimbabwe’ of Southeast Asia.
“Democracy saved us. The voters were our great heroes. A new Malaysia was declared. The scale and magnitude of the change, which occurred at the ballot box, has the potential to be revolutionary, albeit peaceful.
“The desire and demand for change was so widespread and deeply felt by millions of Malaysians that if the expectations of our citizens are to be satisfied, reforms in many areas of public life have to be radically and speedily implemented.
“The phenomenon ‘New Malaysia’ is already the subject of conferences and seminars, and the publication of contemporaneous journalistic essays, which represent the first draft of history,” Thomas reminded.
This Malaysian accomplishment, the attorney-general said, has been lauded regionally and globally.
“Across continents, populism has in recent years seen the rise of right-wing authoritarian leaders catering to the whims of the majorities in their societies.
“Bucking that trend, Malaysians voted rationally and with common sense. Our efforts have been recognised globally: thus, the respectable publication The Economist in its annual survey rated Malaysia as one of the three countries that improved the most in 2018,” he added.
Acknowledging past mistakes
As for the AG’s Chambers, Thomas publicly acknowledged that many of the ills that mar the legal landscape were caused by the actions and omissions of the professional class of lawyers who are employed on a full-time basis at taxpayers’ cost by the executive branch.
“Whether one refers to the drafting of bad or oppressive laws, the instituting of politically-motivated prosecutions against persons who are not popular with the executive, the putting forward of specious or untenable arguments in order to succeed in litigation or the giving of poor advice to politicians and civil servants, the Chambers that I now represent must take its fair share of responsibility.
“The corporate profile of AG’s Chambers on its website describes us as ‘A World Class Public Legal Organisation’. Our mission is ‘to uphold the law and safeguard the interest of the nation by providing legal advice and service of the highest quality, efficiently, fairly and equitably in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.’
The task of the AG’s Chambers from henceforth, he vowed, is to act on the lofty ideals of its mission.
“Our actions must match our online promises. Professionalism of the highest standard must be combined with honesty, industry and a true commitment to the rule of law.”
Thomas also reminded the academia to play their role in turning students to become better lawyers.
“Attention must be turned to the students and teachers of law, even if they are not at the forefront of the administration of justice.
“The standard of legal education, and tertiary education, in general, has woefully declined in Malaysia. Education has become a business. The number of universities offering law degrees has mushroomed. In the fee-driven university race to the bottom, the quality of entrants and educators has been increasingly sacrificed. Quantity at the expense of quality!”
Thomas stressed that academicians must play their role as public intellectuals if the administration of justice is to improve. – Malaysiakini