MALAYSIAN Bar Council president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn’s recent statement questioning the impartiality of the special task force (STF) investigating allegations made by former attorney-general (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas in his memoir has been slammed by Putrajaya.
Caretaker de facto law minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said Cheah’s statement yesterday (Oct 26), in which she also branded the declassification of the STF report amid early polls as a possible abuse of power, was “baseless and inaccurate”.
Wan Junaidi said the STF was established by the Cabinet on Dec 22, 2021, to fact-find and analyse the information on the allegations stated by Thomas in his book, My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, and its findings reported to the Cabinet on Sept 30, 2022.
In the report, which was made public last week, the STF concluded that there were possible infringements of several laws and Government regulations, executive interference in the appointment of judges, unauthorised disclosure of Government information and official secrets as well as abuse of power during Thomas’ time in office from June 2018 to February 2020.
As such, it recommended that investigations be conducted with regard to the possible offences that may have been committed by Thomas.
In a statement today, Wan Junaidi said the STF members had conducted the mandate entrusted to them with “full commitment, responsibility and free from any form of intervention”.
All findings obtained, he added, were based on the 19 consultations conducted by the STF among the various stakeholders, while the STF also looked into the various documents that were provided by the relevant agencies.
He also pointed out that the STF had invited the Bar Council to participate in the consultation sessions so as to ensure that all parties’ views are taken into consideration in preparing its report on the matter.
“However, the Bar Council had declined the invitation for the consultation session with the STF,” the incumbent Santubong MP noted.
“As such, casting a negative perception on the impartiality of the STF members is completely baseless; the Bar Council ought to have come forward and given their views on the various allegations identified by the STF.”
“Not the way”
He added: “To refuse participation and then question the impartiality of the STF and its members should not be the Bar Council’s way to confront issues of this kind.”
Wan Junaidi iterated that the methodology used, issues analysed, stakeholders involved in the consultation session, as well as those who had refused to participate, have all been listed in the report.
This, he argued, “clearly shows” that the STF had conducted its job in a “responsible, transparent and impartial manner”.
“The STF had also submitted its recommendations for improvements in the various areas like the judiciary and the legal system for further consideration of the Government,” he noted further.
In her statement yesterday, Cheah reiterated the Bar Council’s long-held issues about the legitimacy of the STF, saying the “rightful approach” should have been through an independent investigation under a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI).
“Such a significant exercise must be free from political tampering and external influence by the executive, as the outcome goes to the heart of strengthening the various critical institutions in a democratic nation,” she explained.
She also slammed a statement in the STF report which stated that the Bar Council “was not keen to participate” in the STF inquiries, saying this was a “simplistic gloss-over of the rationale in which the reservations we had was premised on”.
“The Bar Council refused to participate in the STF, as explained in our letter responding to the request made, as it purported to delve into the veracity and accuracy of contents of the memoirs, which of course the Bar Council had no direct or personal knowledge of,” she noted.
“Due to the opacity of the terms of reference provided to the Bar Council when requested to participate in the STF in February 2022, and the possibility that the Bar Council may be hauled inadvertently as a witness in what was foreseeable then as probable and conceivable court proceedings to be commenced as a result of any outcome the STF would take, the Bar Council declined to participate in the STF so as to obviate the likelihood of being utilised as a tool of any political manoeuvrings,” she added.
Meanwhile, Thomas has since sued the STF and the Government for an alleged breach of law and his constitutional rights by publishing the report on his memoir, and wants the courts to declare that the STF and its report are “illegal”. – Oct 27, 2022