Malaysiakini Yoursay

Yoursay: Is the hiring of 1MDB lawyer conflict of interest?

Yoursay  |  Published:  |  Modified:

YOURSAY | ‘Questions over Sitpah’s appointment are neither related to her expertise nor payment.’

AG: No conflict of interest if 1MDB gets best shipping lawyers

Lord Denning: It looks like a checkmate by attorney-general Tommy Thomas. Is there impropriety?

None, it seems, as the decision to appoint Sitpah Selvaratnam to the 1MDB legal team to claim seized superyacht the Equanimity was made with the AG’s understanding of her capabilities. Her credentials support it.

However, questions over her appointment are not related to her doing national service at no cost to the taxpayer.

It is related to the fact that the AG's appointment has brought Sitpah and the AG’s former company Tommy Thomas Advocates and Solicitors into the public eye in a high-profile case, which may eventually benefit the parties concerned though future engagements from the maritime industry from the resulting fame. Fortune follows fame.

More than a fine line, it seems that there is a case for conflict of interest due to the AG's past association with the firm and the individual. Lack of impropriety does not necessarily mean that there is a no conflict of interest.

Anonymous_1528170669: For rational and thinking Malaysians who aspire to a Malaysia founded on the rule of law and the absence of both corruption and any whiff of it, the appointment must be seen to be done at arms’ length.

Thomas has just confirmed he was directly involved in the appointment and made it based solely on her expertise.

But that raises the question: Why not hire an outsider if such expertise was limited locally? It’s not a matter of past credentials, it’s a matter of ethics and avoiding controversy.

Now, rightly or wrongly, the appointment will be cited as evidence of favouritism, of potentially accruing to Sitpah future gains even in the absence of current returns, of poor judgement, et cetera.

Personally, Thomas does not look good. And before anyone here starts protesting, in no way are my comments personal in nature. Rather, they are concerns and reservations about professional ethics and the issue of moral hazard.

Jackay Way: Indeed, it doesn't matter whether the lawyer is the best shipping expert or not. The issue is about conflict of interest.

We hope Tommy will act more responsibly. Go and get a neutral lawyer. It's a simple as that.

Gerard Lourdesamy: But where is the conflict of interest when both parties have a common interest to protect the rights of the Malaysian government and 1MDB in the matter?

The decision was made by the AG on an ethical and legally sound basis.

The nature of the AG's office is as such that controversy can never be avoided. More so, when a very experienced senior lawyer from the practising Bar was appointed as the AG.

Perceptions can be very subjective but that is not a valid reason for the AG to avoid appointing the brightest and the best to represent the government and 1MDB in court proceedings.

When we have the right expertise within the country, why must we look elsewhere?

HardTruth: The question is, what is the motive of those who raised the question of conflict of interest? Don't they want Malaysia to gain custody of the Equanimity?

The AG's job is to hire the best-qualified people to return the superyacht to the people of Malaysia, full stop.

Ruben: Well done, Thomas. You are indeed right that dealing with the Equanimity case requires top-notch expertise in maritime and shipping laws, and you managed to secure the best.

I am indeed very happy that you are leading the Attorney-General’s Chambers with the government and rakyat’s interests very much in mind.

I wish you and your team all the very best in ensuring that the yacht does indeed belong to our government.

Ferdtan: See how Thomas foresaw the conflict of interest in appointing his former consultant in his law firm to the 1MDB legal team? True to form, Umno jumped in to complain.

Thus, that was the reason why Sitpah will not, and should not, be paid. Therefore, the focus is on getting the job done instead of dwelling with unnecessary controversy regarding the appointment.

She volunteered. Thanks for your service for the country, Sitpah.

Anonymous_1533001722: The AG has explained the matter and it is good enough for me. The conflict was a perception which is now cleared up.

Sitpah should be paid for her time and expertise, as her time and services have been made transparent.

Malaysia should not expect free services from a top professional whom we expect to do her best by the country’s interests, which in itself may create another erroneous perception. Let’s be fair.

Anonymous_1527925538: Yes, if done for the nation's interest and above board, please remunerate the lawyer involved for her effort. The people do not expect free service.

David Dass: This issue should end here. The AG has clarified matters. Sitpah along with the other two lawyers are experienced shipping lawyers.

Sitpah is taking no fee. There is no conflict. They are good lawyers and they are on the same side.

Anonymous_4031c: Thomas would have considered the potential conflict of interest and decided in the best interest of the rakyat.

The fact we have engaged the best before their engagement by businessperson Low Taek Jho’s team allows us to take a breather, knowing that we have the best on our side to defend Malaysia’s interest in the vessel.

FairMalaysian: Thomas, thanks for the explanation.

Yesterday, I was quite apprehensive to learn of a lawyer from your former firm being given the task, but now that you have explained the reasons for the appointment, and the reasons are good.

Malaysians have to thank for the dedicated services of Sitpah. We are very proud of you as the AG.

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