Malaysia appoints ethnic Indian Tommy Thomas as new attorney general, replaces official who cleared ex-PM in 1MDB scandal
Tommy Thomas is the first non-Malay to take the post of attorney general since Malaysia was formed in 1963
Malaysia’s king has approved the appointment of an ethnic Indian lawyer as the new attorney general, amid protests from Islamic groups that the job must be held by a Muslim.
A palace statement said Sultan Muhammad V had approved terminating current attorney general Mohamad Apandi Ali and replacing him with Tommy Thomas, the first minority to hold the post in 55 years.
Groups representing the ethnic Malay majority rejected the plan to appoint Thomas in what amounted to probably the first resistance faced by new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad since he won a stunning election victory last month on promises to fight corruption and reform institutions.
Malaysia’s palace said the king decided to end the tenure of Mohamad Apandi and appoint Thomas as his replacement on Mahathir’s advice and after consulting the heads of the other eight royal households.
“The appointment will preserve the special rights of the Malays and Bumiputra and the status of Islam as the religion of the federation,” palace official Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz said in a statement on behalf of the king late on Monday.
Bumiputra means “sons of the soil”.
Thomas is the first non-Malay to take the post of attorney general since Malaysia was formed in 1963.
Malaysia’s council of rulers, which is formed by the heads of the country’s nine sultanates, was initially expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the government’s plan to appoint Thomas.
Its decision is likely to quell dissent in the Muslim Malay community, which makes up about 60 per cent of Malaysia’s population of roughly 32 million.
An ethnic Indian Christian, Thomas’ key task will be to prosecute those involved in graft at heavily indebted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The 1MDB scandal was one of the main reasons behind the downfall of former prime minister Najib Razak.
Mahathir proposed Thomas for the job nearly two weeks ago, domestic media have reported, after ordering Mohamad Apandi to go on leave.
Mohamad Apandi cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.
Najib denies any wrongdoing but has been barred from leaving the country since his election defeat and enforcement agencies have relaunched a probe into how 1MDB funds went missing.
Associated Press and Reuters