After more than nine years as Attorney-General, Jeremy Fell Mathews yesterday mounted his final defence against his legion of crit ics. 'If an attorney-general is popular he is not doing his job properly,' he said, citing a book by a former English attorney-general. Mr Mathews, 55, the only senior official being forced out on June 30 on racial grounds, said: 'It's not a comfortable job.' And it was inevitably lonely. 'Your job is not to give convenient advice, your job is to give the best advice you possibly can - straight, objective and right down the middle.' Mr Mathews has faced many calls for his resignation from the press since taking his post in April 1988, but yesterday kicked off his farewell address with a strong defence of press freedom, saying: 'It makes the rule of law work.' He said government lawyers, unlike surgeons, did not operate behind closed doors. 'That is as it should be. But this means that when occasionally things go wrong, as they have done, they are very public, very visible. 'We try to learn from them. But to extrapolate from those matters to some sort of systemic disorder in the department is both grossly inaccurate and actually grossly ignorant.' Mr Mathews arrived in Hong Kong and joined the Legal Department in 1968. He married Sophie Lee in the year he arrived. In 1989, he took the unusual step of announcing via the press that he was leaving her for his press officer, Halima Guterres. His wife claimed she had learned that their marriage was over by reading the South China Morning Post. Mr Mathews, who is paid $193,050 a month, said it had been a great privilege to serve the people of Hong Kong for 29 years and to have taken part 'in some small way' in its great history. He said he would return to London a few days after the handover. 'I will be retiring to live in England. I'm quite looking forward to having a rest, going back to London, and thinking about what to do with the rest of my life.' He offered one promise: he will not write a book. 'Lawyers' memoirs are always so boring,' he said. His wife, Halima, has been posted to the Government's London office. One reporter who asked about the 'legal vacuum' after the handover received the following reply: 'After midnight on the 30th of June it ain't my problem.'