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KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas has claimed today he was not aware of Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin’s cross-appeal in a sedition case until the High Court upheld the decision to convict him and enhanced his sentence earlier this week.
Thomas explained a sequence of events beginning with Wan Ji’s initial charge in 2014, and that the cross-appeal by the prosecution on the sentence was made prior to the 14th General Election last year.
The timeline showed that Wan Ji was charged in September 2014, convicted in April 2018, and immediately filed an appeal against the conviction while the prosecution filed a cross-appeal on the same day.
“No written representations were ever made by the accused or his lawyer to me, and I was not personally aware of this matter until after the decision of the High Court on July 9 became publicly known,” said Thomas in a statement here.
“It is therefore impossible for any one person to be personally acquainted with even a tiny fraction of these cases. Hence, delegation and decentralisation of authority are essential.”
The High Court had granted a stay of execution on Wan Ji’s one-year jail sentence until the appeal process was completed.
Thomas said the AGC was studying its options but noted that in view of his conviction by two courts, “the margin of discretion in his office is substantially limited”.
“The Wan Ji case has once again brought to sharp focus the continued use by this chambers of prosecution for offences under the Sedition Act 1948, and the misinformation surrounding the subject,” he said.
The AG also explained the continued use of the controversial Sedition Act 1948, saying that he had not received any instruction from the Cabinet to repeal or amend it, but used it only as a “last resort”.
“Under our system of government, it is the Cabinet that decides on behalf of the executive branch to enact, repeal or amend laws for presentation to Parliament, with chambers assisting in the drafting of new laws,” he said.
He also said Cabinet had not sent any instructions to stop relying on the Sedition Act.
“Such an instruction would not, in any event, be lawful because it would offend the discretionary power under the Constitution vested solely in the office of the Attorney General to decide on prosecutorial matters on behalf of the state,” he said.
“Because the Sedition Act is still a law, it cannot be totally disregarded. That can only occur if Parliament repeals it.
“Since GE14, however, not a single person has been charged under the Sedition Act,” he said, adding that since office in June 2018, he decided to only turn to the Sedition Act as a measure of last resort.
For cases under the Sedition Act prior to GE14, its policy is to review each case on an individual basis depending on its circumstances.
Thomas added that if a prosecution has to occur, it will rely on the Penal Code, but if there where there no alternatives under the laws, then in appropriate cases, it “cannot rule out applying the Sedition Act, until it is repealed”.