Another ‘Special Task Force’ – Friend Or Foe To The Rule Of Law?

There is pretty much a rule of thumb. If Sarawak’s notorious legal wheeler dealer is involved, namely JC Fong, then you are dealing with an establishment set up. If the appalling Najib next starts barking on his Facebook you can pretty much be sure.

Thus today the convicted ex-PM started to taunt from his position of ‘innocence and expertise’ the former Attorney General, Tommy Thomas, for refusing to take part in a suddenly created ‘Task Force’ supposedly to ‘look into claims raised in his book [Justice in the Wilderness]. The Task Force is headed by JC Fong.

It was Thomas who’d raised the issues to be addressed by this Task Force, quipped Najib, (who has instituted no less than two defamation cases against Thomas despite his own convicted status) and yet now the ex-AG refuses to cooperate in this investigation: “Thomas was the one who divulged (these issues) but is now throwing a fit when the government wants to investigate” said Najib as he began a tirade on Facebook.

The genesis of this ‘Special Task Force’ into the contents of Thomas’s book and its actual purpose therefore bears some consideration. It was an early move after the UMNO takeover, having been demanded by UMNO Cabinet members in November, and is understood to have been prompted by the so-called ‘Court Cluster’ led by Najib and Zahid, who are facing the closing stages of legal processes against them.

One of those suspicious of Najib and his circle’s motives for the project gave this explanation to SR:

“The plan is to present the prosecutions as being politically motivated to get them off the hook on their corruption convictions. The strategy is not to look at the concerns about judicial interferences and other matters raised by Thomas in his historical book about Malaysia but to quiz him personally and accuse him over his own decisions whilst AG – primarily his prosecutions of the Court Cluster”.

Plainly, this is how Thomas himself views the entire charade. In his letter to JC Fong he has laid out his reasons for refusing to cooperate in straightforward terms. In the first place Thomas points out there has been no properly constituted remit for the task force and no clear terms of reference as to what Fong and his friends are seeking to find out or why.

This is itself is highly suspect and extremely shoddy. In the letter, viewed by media, Thomas suggests what he believes to be the real motive:

“I assume that the Task Force intends to scrutinise prosecutorial decisions taken by me whilst I occupied the office of the Attorney General. These decisions were explained in my book, and these explanations have in turn caused political controversy”

The suspicion has been born out by Najib’s continuing rants on his Facebook platform which have progressed in the past hours to very clearly divulge the actual purpose is indeed to investigate Thomas’s alleged “misconduct” and alleged ‘political interference’ by “Atok” [Grandpa/PM Dr Mahathir] in his prosecutorial decisions (for example the successful prosecution of Najib which has been upheld).

Najib gives the game away
[Translated version] Najib gives the game away
So, if this is the clearly stated purpose of those behind the Task Force, despite the facade of  an enquiry instead into issues raised by Thomas, why should the ex-AG take part. As his letter of refusal to the slippery Sarawak shadow solicitor (Fong has occupied a ‘consultant’s’ role since formally stepping down as State AG) Thomas points out that Fong of all people should be aware of the entrenched right of an Attorney General not to be called to task for decisions he has made.

“The Attorney General, a Public Prosecutor, is empowered at his or her discretion to institute, conduct, or discontinue any proceedings for an offence … The Federal Constitution elevated such discretion to a constitutional status… the Public Prosecutor is also not accountable to the Cabinet or others in the Executive branch with regard to prosecutorial decisions”

So, the answer to Najib is go bark.

Thomas also points out in the same letter that as a mere informal Task Force, rather than a legally constituted Royal Commission of Enquiry, Fong’s body has no rights of subpoena either. In law his position is water-tight and the politicians who are trying to flex their executive muscles are displaying the very sins of abuse of process that Thomas had sought to highlight and warn against.

The Fong Task Force thus stands accused of being a mere show event designed to kick up dust and confusion or order that his UMNO supporters can allege that Najib, who has been proven by investigations across the globe to have stolen billions whilst in office, was a victim of a political persecution.

Thomas is of course a lawyer and not a politician and his case against Najib has not only been held up by the High Court but by the Court of Appeal as well. Seeking to add to his civil cases with this attack is unlikely to change the reality of the evidence one bit for Najib Razak.

If Fong wishes to prove himself likewise to be acting for the law and not the politicians he has served all his life, he should set out publicly the formal terms of reference for his enquiries and admonish Najib for his ignorant and inappropriate remarks as well.

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