Will Ismail’s ‘Political Ammo’ Blow Up In His Face?

The prime minister exhorting his party followers to use the “political bullets” provided by him de-classifying a dubious ‘task force’ report into the ex-AG Tommy Thomas could well end up as a ‘return to sender’ moment, much like the recent viral scenes of the Russian ballistic missiles that boomeranged into their launch sites.

That point has become very clear today with the laying of Thomas’s own suit against the Malaysian Government, together with each member of the task force itself.

That Ismail should have so blatantly admitted that his whole purpose in setting up such an inquiry to identify “possible offences” and then in releasing its confidential findings was for electoral gain is shocking of itself.

Yet in the process he has once again revealed the coup coalition government’s worst kept secret, which is that is has repeatedly abused its authority to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

Not only have Ismail and his predecessor done their best to drop the charges against a swathe of their political colleagues (Najib being the one exception given the international profile of his crimes) but now he plans to curry favour with their core supporters by victimising the law officer behind the prosecutions.

The statements he so openly made just one week after calling the election are self-damning as is the timing leading up to them. As Thomas laid out in his affidavit placed before the court:

“On 10th October 2022, Ismail Sabri announced that Parliament was dissolved, thus paving the way for the General Elections to be held within 60 days. On 13 October 2022, Ismail Sabri announced that the illegal Report would be declassified.
On or about 14th October 2022, the illegal Report was made publicly available on the website of [the Government’s] Legal Affairs Division…
On 17th October 2022, during a Barisan National rally in Bagan Datuk, Perak, Ismail Sabri announced he had declassified the illegal Report so that it could be used as “political bullets”, and urged that it be used for the General Elections…. Ismail Sabri is quoted as follows:

  • “I have given you bullets. In the Thomas case, we exposed (the report) by the special task force. I have given lots of bullets here.
  • “I asked the de facto law minister to publish it on their website, to detail what was done and what mistakes Thomas made.
  • “I told the attorney-general to take immediate action (against Thomas) under the Official Secrets Act, defamation law and so on. I told him to bring up this issue immediately,”
  • “So, if this is already brought up, we cannot just leave it like that. We must capitalise on this issue to attack them”

By “them” Ismail plainly means his political opponents in this context, meaning that he plans to use a case constructed by himself against a former law officer to political advantage and has timed it to coincide with an election he has called.

He even acknowledges he has interfered with the judicial process in ordering for a confidential document to be released (to be used as “ammo”) and for the present Attorney General to “immediately” proceed to issue charges based on the report.

It is hard to believe that this prime minister claims to have achieved a degree in law while making such crass admissions. Yet he and his team of toady legal practitioners have nonetheless taken on one of the country’s most senior officers of the law, far senior (as he points out) to all of them.

And, like the missile turning in the sky, Thomas has pointed out that the entire process orchestrated by Ismail and his political co-conspirators has no basis in law whatsoever. The ‘special task force’ has no legal basis and its report is, as Thomas repeatedly points out, an illegal Report.

He has therefore sued the Malaysian Government led by Ismail Sabri and the authors of the report for pursuing an illegal action against him and severely tarnishing his name in the process. After all, he points out that amongst other things the Report has asserted that he committed offences whilst Attorney General and also abused his power; exceeded his authority; was professionally negligent; interfered in the Judiciary and was corrupt.

Furthermore, this attack on him was deliberate and malicious and intended to do him harm, says Thomas. Given, Ismail’s own remarks about using the report as “ammo” the prime minister will be hard pressed to deny that intent.

Worse, in the same speech Ismail Sabri has made it crystal clear that it was his instruction to publish the report in advance of any decision being made through the proper official channels whether or not the “possible mistakes” or “wrongdoings” identified by his malefactors merited any action whatsoever. This, the ex-AG points out, was a violation of his constitutional rights.

Ismail Sabri has thus proven himself to be a very bad practitioner of the law who in seeking to devise “political ammo” against a popular target (for his core voters) has in the process provided an arsenal of ‘legal ammo’ against himself.

In short, Thomas has got his case in first whilst the present AG is still chewing his pencil over the interfering instructions from his PM based on the insubstantial allegations of a task force that has no legal standing. It would appear to be a very strong case indeed that Thomas has.

It will be up to Malaysian electorate (should they receive a fair election) to decide if Ismail is as bad a prime minister as he plainly is a lawyer.