AG gives 4 reasons why ministry was told to withdraw lawyer from inquest

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.

KUALA LUMPUR: Attorney-General Tommy Thomas this evening tried to clear up the confusion over the decision to ask lawyer Syazlin Mansor to withdraw as counsel for the housing and local government ministry at the inquest into the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

He gave four reasons as to why it was not tenable for Syazlin to act on behalf of the ministry and the Fire and Rescue Department at the inquest.

Thomas said Syazlin accepted the appointment to represent the ministry and the department when she was also acting on behalf of Adib’s family.

“She ought to have declined the government appointment for various reasons,” he said.

First, Thomas said, the ministry and the department, just as all ministries and government departments, were required to seek legal advice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), with external counsel being appointed by the AG and or public prosecutor.

Second, Syazlin was in a conflict of interest position when she agreed to act for the ministry and the department as she was also acting for the deceased’s family, which had a direct interest in the inquest.

“The interests of these parties may conflict, and it is unacceptable for her to act for all three parties.

“Third, my officers, who are performing their traditional role as counsel assisting the coroner, have informed me that Puan Syazlin takes an active part in the inquest, often contradicting the positions our DPPs have taken, thus causing embarrassment in her capacity as the ministry’s lawyer.”

Fourth, Thomas said, Syazlin’s husband was the press secretary to the housing minister.

“It is for these reasons that I requested the housing minister to immediately revoke her appointment from further representing the ministry and the fire department.

“I was shocked to subsequently discover through yesterday’s news report that Puan Syazlin also withdrew from acting for the deceased’s family. That decision was voluntarily made by her, without any influence from chambers.”

Thomas said before the inquest proceedings started yesterday, DPP Faten Hadni Khairuddin, one of the conducting officers assisting the coroner in the inquest, personally spoke with Syazlin and informed her that the AGC had no issue with her continuing to represent the deceased’s family.

“DPP Faten requested Puan Syazlin to continue to represent the deceased’s family so that the inquest proceedings could proceed and Prof Dr Shahrom Abd Wahid could be called to further testify. Puan Syazlin was however firm on her decision to withdraw.

“Prof Shahrom is an expert witness assisting the coroner in the inquest. His role in the inquest is not affected by Puan Syazlin’s withdrawal as counsel.

“DPP Faten informed the coroner that chambers is prepared to assist the coroner by subpoenaing Prof Shahrom. We will do so.”

Thomas’s statement comes on the heels of a statement issued by Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin’s political secretary Nor Hizwan Ahmad that it was the AG who had instructed that the services of Syazlin be withdrawn.

Nor Hizwan admitted that Syazlin was the wife of Zuraida’s press secretary and that she had carried out her work “without payment and in the spirit of public service”.

He said Syazlin had been representing the department and the ministry since the inquest commenced on Feb 11 but no one had raised any objection until now.

In informing coroner Rofiah Mohamad that she was withdrawing from representing the ministry, Syazlin had said her withdrawal would render invalid the status of former forensic doctor Shahrom, the 29th witness.

Shahrom and another forensic expert, Hospital Kuala Lumpur’s Dr Ahmad Hafizam Hasmi, who performed the post-mortem on Adib, had clashed over calculations on the force of impact of an emergency vehicle in causing Adib’s broken ribs.

Adib, 24, died at the National Heart Institute (IJN) on Dec 17, 2018, following injuries sustained during a riot outside the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Subang Jaya on Nov 27.