Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (pic) and Putrajaya will suffer from negative public perception if he is made the Attorney General, a lawyers group said.
Lawyers for Liberty adviser and co-founder Eric Paulsen said Putrajaya should not even consider Shafee a candidate for the job as “he is carrying too much baggage”.
“The office of the AG is sacrosanct and any candidate must be seen to be neutral and above politics,” Paulsen told The Malaysian Insider.
He said if Shafee was appointed or even considered for the post, then the whole debacle that had plagued the AG’s position would turn from bad to worse because he (Shafee) is “through and through an Umno lawyer”.
He said Shafee had acted and advised previous prime ministers and even current premier and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak on various matters.
“Shafee was also known to have taken up adversarial position against the opposition, especially Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“That is why, it is all the more inappropriate for him to be involved in Anwar’s sodomy case. The public perception is that if he successfully secured a conviction for the prosecution, there will be a trade off, and Shafee gets to be the next AG,” said Paulsen.
On January 9, 2012, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur acquitted Anwar on a charge of sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 26, at the Desa Damansara condominium unit in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, on June 26, 2008.
Shafee is expected to lead the prosecution when the Court of Appeal hears the public prosecutor’s appeal on February 12.
Paulsen was commenting on The Malaysian Insider report today where Shafee had said that he would take up the position of Attorney General as “service to the public was far more important than making money”.
“I would take any position to do public service. And if that public service is something I am qualified for, if the government really requires me, I will take it,” said the 61-year-old Shafee.
Shafee said rumours of him becoming the AG had been around since the time of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, some 15 to 20 years ago.
He had said that his appointment as ad hoc deputy public prosecutor to lead the prosecution team to overturn the acquittal of Anwar, should also be seen as doing public service.
Paulsen said Shafee’s admission confirmed what has been an open secret for a long time among the legal fraternity.
He said there was no doubt that Shafee’s grasp of the law and capability was par excellence, but the question remained whether as AG he would enjoy public confidence and trust.
“The office of the AG cannot be tainted,” Paulsen added.
Paulsen drew a parallel with the appointment of Tun Zaki Azmi, a former Umno lawyer, who was put on an “express path” straight to the post of Federal Court judge in 2007 and later made chief justice.
He said eyebrows were raised every time a case linking Putrajaya and Umno, such as the Perak constitutional crisis, came up, as to whether Zaki had a hand in manipulating judgments.
Lawyers for Liberty had two weeks ago questioned Shafee’s role as the lead prosecutor in the sodomy case after the High Court dismissed his appeal after he was fined RM5,000 by the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board for breaching the publicity rule under the Legal Profession Act.
Paulsen then had said this was another reason why AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail should take away the licence given to Shafee to handle Anwar’s case.
By Ida Lim Malaymail Online