Govt fails to void ex-AG Tommy Thomas’s suit over task force probe into memoir

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 — Sued by former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, the federal government today in its bid to quash the suit over a task force that was formed to investigate statements the latter made in his book My Story: Justice in the Wilderness.

Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, the High Court judge presiding over the case in Shah Alam, Selangor, said he would be seeking directions from the managing judge of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur for Thomas’s originating summons (OS) to be transferred to a different civil court.

“In view of my ruling, I am not prepared to strike out this suit, however I am directing that this OS be converted into a civil suit for the matter to be heard and disposed of in a full trial.

“Since the matter will be heard by a judge of the same division, I will refrain myself from making any determination on the constitutionality and legality of the special task force,” he said in delivering his judgment through video-conferencing platform Zoom.

Wan Farid noted that the affidavits filed in connection with Thomas’s application reveal many disputed facts, adding that “a claim of such nature cannot be resolved through affidavit evidence.”

The judge also clarified that he was not saying the ex-AG had no cause of action, but that the reliefs sought by Thomas involved the loss of reputation, where the usual legal action would be a defamation suit.

No order as to costs was made.

Lawyers Mervyn Lai and Haikaldin Mahyidin appeared for Thomas while the defendants were represented by senior federal counsels Shamsul Bolhassan and Liew Horng Bin.

In early 2021, Thomas published the book titled My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, which detailed his early life, his experiences as a lawyer, and his time as attorney-general between June 2018 and February 2020.

On October 8, 2021, then prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob set up an eight-member task force as a fact-finding body to undertake an in-depth review and analysis of the entire book on whether statements in Thomas's book were seditious, had exposed government secrets, or revealed any abuse of power or professional negligence on his part.

The task force alleged in its conclusion that Thomas had “powerful vested interests” in the appointment of judges, and that he had attempted to use “political or executive influence” to ensure that certain appointments were carried through.

On October 13 last year, the Ismail Sabri government declassified the task force report, which made several recommendations, including that Thomas be investigated for possible offences.

According to the OS, Thomas claimed the eight-man task force was set up illegally as they were not appointed under the authority of any written law, and as such is unlawful and illegal.

He also sought a declaration that the publication of the report by the government violated his right to his reputation as protected by Articles 5(1) and 13(1) of the Federal Constitution.

The government and the task force then filed an application to strike out the suit.