In an unexpected concession in the early hours of Tuesday (June 5), the National Palace said Malaysia’s supreme ruler, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, had withdrawn its consent for incumbent Apandi Ali to continue as the nation’s top lawyer.
“His Majesty decreed that… on the advice of the Prime Minister, he has consented to the appointment of Mr Tommy Thomas as Attorney General,” said a statement from the palace.
The announcement comes after a late night audience granted to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, whose party holds the most number of MPs in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) ruling coalition.
An impasse over the appointment of the A-G – who has discretionary powers of prosecution – has dragged on for a fortnight since the government first advised the Agong to replace Tan Sri Apandi with Mr Thomas.
Malaysia’s Council of Rulers – made up of nine Malay hereditary royals who govern in their states and rotate as Agong – were set to meet later on Tuesday to deliberate on the matter.
It is unclear why the Sultan Muhammad of Kelantan decided on the matter before the meeting, but the statement said the Agong had taken into account the views of his counterparts on the appointment and the rights of Malays and other aboriginal groups.
There has been concern from Malay and Muslim groups, including Islamist party PAS that Mr Thomas would be unable to uphold the status of Islam – the official religion of the federation – given his assertions that Malaysia is a secular state.
Prime Minister Mahathir had on Sunday (June 3) confirmed earlier reports that the constitutional lawyer, a veteran of four decades in the legal profession, was the government’s pick and that it would be sticking by its choice.