The extension of Ainum’s term by at least another three months should be regarded as her national service, and should pose no administrative problem, as Ainum’s original appointment as Attorney-General was for two years, which is being cut to one year on her resignation as Attorney-General at the end of this year.
Ainum should now be asked to stay on as Attorney-General for at least another three months to avert the country from being plunged back into another new national and international crisis of confidence in Malaysia’s system of justice, which had just begun to struggle to surface from a protracted crisis of confidence which had beleagured the country for the past decade.
The “letter to the editor” of the Malaysian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, which appeared in Malaysiakini on Tuesday and the print media on Wednesday (including New Straits Times) is food for thought for the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the whole country in this regard.
The burden of Noor Farida’s complaint was primarily to blame the media, including Malaysiakini, for their culpability in “helping to fuel the rumours which had finally driven Ainum from her job” as the Ambassador had no doubt that Ainum “has taken this step for some peace of mind and to preserve her health”.
Noor Farida wrote from The Hague, Netherlands:
“It is a sad reflection of the situation that we do not value integrity and high standards of professionalism in those who hold public office. Ainum embodies these qualities. Those who know her and worked with her as I have, will attest to the fact that she is a person of unimpeachable integrity.
“She was head-hunted for the position of Attorney General and was persuaded by the government to fill that post. She was happy with her job at the Securities Commission, but she accepted the government’s invitation, as she saw it as a duty to the nation.
“It is unfair that her decision to take one-month’s leave to recuperate from a recurring medical condition was exploited by mischief-makers who created the story on the Internet that she was under investigation by the Securities Commission.
“The Malaysian press seized on this allegation like sharks in a feeding frenzy. Even denials by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Rais Yatim, and by the Securities Commission did not succeed in ending the speculation. It appeared that the press made no attempt to investigate the truth. Innuendos and insinuations, it seems, are good substitutes for the truth.
“In Malaysia currently, public figures can be brought down with wild allegations on the Internet. The Malaysian press accepts these allegations as plausible, on the doubtful reasoning that there is no smoke without a fire. The victim’s background is not investigated. His or her performance record is not looked into. In short, professional ethics and journalistic standards are happily cast aside for a good story, never mind if it is fabricated.
“In the case of Ainum, her departure contributed to by the persecution from the press, will be a sad loss not just to the Attorney General’s Chambers but to the country. She is not only acknowledged as possessing one of the finest legal brains in the country, but in the one year since her appointment, she has tried to stop the rot in the department and to raise the professional standards and performance of her officers.
“Her appointment and that of Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah as the Chief Justice earlier this year were hailed by those in the legal fraternity as the light at the end of a dark tunnel. Those who know them were confident that they had the capacity to raise their respective institutions to the heights they had attained previously.
“Now, Ainum’s work in that direction has been cut short thanks to the mischief-makers, aided and abetted by the press. The real casualty in this whole sorry episode is truth and decency.
“Sadly, her resignation, instead of stopping the speculation has fuelled it even more. The press is now demanding to know whether Ainum was pressured by the government into resigning.
“May I suggest that the press go after the real crooks instead. There is certainly no scarcity of them on the Malaysian scene.”
The press in Malaysia must answer Noor Faridah’s very serious allegation that their unprofessional and unethical journalism had driven “a person of unimpeacable integrity” from the high office of Attorney-General.
If Noor Farida is right that Ainum had “resigned” prematurely as Attorney-General because she was hounded by an irresponsible and unethical media, the Malaysian media owe her not just a full apology but full “justice”. The least the Malaysian media should do is to seek an appointment with Ainum to get to the bottom of the Ainum’s resignation, as to whether it was all because of the media’s irresponsible and unethical journalism - which would make Ainum the first high public officer in Malaysia to become casualty of irresponsible, unprofessional and unethical mass media practices as there had been no such instances of resignations in the past.
There is however another aspect of Noor Farida’s letter which is equally if not more important - her statement that Ainum had tried in the one year of her appointment “to stop the rot in the department and to raise the professional standards and performance of her officers” and that Ainum’s appointment “and that of Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah as the Chief Justice earlier this year were hailed by those in the legal fraternity as the light at the end of a dark tunnel”.
Farida’s statement deserves the full respect and serious consideration of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the whole country, not only because she is Malaysia’s high-profile Ambassador to the Netherlands, but also because of her distinguished career which started as a legal officer in the Attorney-General’s Chambers in 1971, culminating as a division secretary in the Foreign Ministry prior to her ambassadorial appointment in June last year.
Thus, when Farida talked about “the rot” in the Attorney-General’s Chambers,
the “light at the end of a dark tunnel” in the administration and cause
of justice, and that there is no “scarcity” of the “real crooks …
on the Malaysian scene”, she was talking as a knowledgeable insider who
had worked and walked in the corridors of power for over three decades.
Now that even before “light at the end of a dark tunnel” could cast out the entire darkness, the country is on the edge of a longer and darker tunnel, Ainum should answer the call of national duty to extend her term as Attorney-General by at least another three months to safeguard the country’s system and cause of justice from entering another long dark tunnel, by resolving satisfactorily the ballooning CLP scandal as well as to create the conditions for the proper appointment of her successor.
It is now very clear that the announcement of the appointment of
Datuk Abdul Gani Patail as the successor to Ainum as the new Attorney-General
made by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Rais
Yatim, is improper,
irregular and even unconstitutional as Articles 145(1) and 38(6)(b) of the Constitution on the appointment of a new Attorney-General had not been complied with.
If it is not possible to persuade Ainum to answer the call of national duty and agree to the extension of her term of office for at least another three months, she should submit a report to Parliament on the progress and success of her one-year’s campaign to “stop the rot” in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, raise the professional standards and performance of the officers in the department and ensure that “the light at the end of a dark tunnel” for the administration of justice had become greater and sharper instead of dimmer in the past 12 months.
At least, her report of the success or otherwise of her efforts to “stop the rot” in the Attorney-General’s Chambers would throw considerable light on the suitability and propriety of the appointment of the new Attorney-General from inside the current officers of the department, instead of “head-hunting” for a suitable candidate from outside the department.