PETALING JAYA: An attorney-general must be prepared to “call a spade a spade” and not merely act on orders from Putrajaya, former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali said today, in reponse to comments about Malaysia’s failure in the past to accept the Rome Statute.
His remark appeared to be critical of his successor, Tommy Thomas, who had been quoted on Saturday as saying that the government of the day was his “client” and as attorney-general he was expected to follow instructions.
Apandi said that he and his officers at the Attorney-General’s Chambers had agreed with the reservations of his predecessor, Abdul Gani Patail, about acceding to the treaty, which sets up the International Criminal Court.
“If I recall correctly, he (Gani) was concerned that the ratification might be contrary to our constitution, as it might affect our constitutional monarchs,” Apandi said, according to Malaysian Insight.
Despite the change in government, the constitution remained the same. “We have to uphold the law and not act merely on the instruction of the government,” he was quoted as saying. “We call a spade a spade according to the law.”
Yesterday, Thomas had said that various officials and the Cabinet had recommended that Malaysia accept the Rome Statute. However, the Attorney-General’s Chambers at the time had disagreed.
“I am surprised. I did not know that as AG, I can refuse to act on the instruction of the client (the Cabinet),” Thomas was quoted as saying.
He said he had advised the current Pakatan Harapan government to accept the treaty. “From a legal perspective, there is no reason to stay away and it is clear as black and white”. However, the final decision was a political one.
The federal government had announced earlier this year that it had acceded to the statute, but later changed its mind because of protests that it would subject the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Rulers to prosecution.
The Rome Statute allows for prosecution of those responsible for international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.