Why ask lawyer to withdraw from inquest only now, opposition asks AG

Lawyer Syazlin Mansor.

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno and PAS today questioned the attorney-general’s timing in instructing a ministry’s lawyer to withdraw from an inquest into the death of Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, a fireman who died in the temple riots in Subang Jaya last year.

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said Tommy Thomas should have asked lawyer Syazlin Mansor to withdraw as counsel for the housing and local government ministry much earlier and not towards the tail end of the inquest.

“Why ask Syazlin to withdraw after five months? Prior to this, objections were raised when it came to the lawyer who wanted to represent the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple, but Syazlin’s appointment was not objected to,” he said at a press conference.

While Takiyuddin did not identify the lawyer, it is believed he was alluding to M Visvanathan, who was to represent the temple’s task force.

In February, the High Court had dismissed applications by the temple task force and devotees to take part in the inquest as both applicants had “no nexus” to the incident.

Takiyuddin went on to reprimand Thomas’ handling of the matter.

“Don’t treat the Attorney-General’s Chambers like your own firm. Don’t do things that will make the people lose faith in the AGC.”

Last night, Thomas cited four reasons it instructed Syazlin to withdraw from the case, including conflict of interest as she was also acting for Adib’s family.

He also said that Syazlin had often contradicted the stand taken by the DPP which had caused “embarrassment in her capacity as the ministry’s lawyer”. Her husband is also the press secretary to the housing minister.

But Takiyuddin said the AG’s decision for Syazlin to withdraw from the case because she was married to the minister’s aide did not make sense.

“She is a lawyer appointed by the ministry and was handling the case pro bono. it shouldn’t be an excuse for Thomas to instruct her to withdraw. It is superficial.”

Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob, meanwhile, urged Putrajaya to handle the case with care as Adib’s death was a sensitive matter.

“It can become a time bomb, which is why we are worried, especially if the findings appear one-sided,” he said, adding that they were not trying to politicise the matter and were only interested in justice.

Adib, 24, died at the National Heart Institute on Dec 17, 2018, following injuries sustained during a riot outside the temple in Subang Jaya on Nov 27.