“Tommy is the king. He has an unparalleled combination
of skills, knowledge and sense, which enables him to remain a top dog,’ notes one competitor.”
Benchmark Asia-Pacific – Tommy Thomas Website
1. Graduate from University of Manchester and London School of Economics
Tommy Thomas was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1952, and attended Pasar Road English School and Victoria Institution.
He read law at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1973, and became a barrister (Middle Temple) in 1974. He studied International Relations at the London School of Economics, securing an M.Sc. in 1975. He was called to the Malaysian Bar in 1976.
2. Own A Law Firm – Tommy Thomas Advocates & Solicitors
He started his career at Skrine & Co., becoming a partner in 1982. In 2000, he established a firm, doing litigation matters exclusively, organised along the lines of a barrister’s chambers in England.
Partners: Tommy Thomas, Alan Gomez, Ganesan Nethi Consultant: Sitpah Selvaratnam
3. Thomas Served The Bar Council From 1984
Thomas served in the Bar Council from 1984 to 1988 and from 1993 to 2001. He was elected its Secretary, serving from 1995 to 1997. He was Editor of Insaf, the Bar’s publication from 1985 to 1987. He was a member of the Bar (Disciplinary Proceedings) Review Committee under the Chairmanship of Tun Hussein Onn, and wrote its Report in 1986. Thomas has a keen interest in corporate governance.
4. The United Nations Development Plan (UNDP) Appointed Him As Senior Consultant In 2000
He was a Director of the Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance from 1995 to 2001. In the wake of the financial and economic crisis that engulfed Malaysia and other Asian countries in 1997, the United Nations Development Plan (UNDP) appointed him as Senior Consultant in 2000 to lead the Corporate Governance Initiative for the countries affected by the crisis. The publication in 2002 of a UNDP Report edited by him identified profligate corporate debt as a principal cause for the crisis.
He is a life member of the Malaysian Economic Association and the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
5. Well Known Legal Book Author
In Anything But The Law, Tommy Thomas covers topics as diverse as past general elections, Malaysian icons, the Arab Spring and economics – in fact, anything but the law.
Some readers are aware that he is a lawyer, he notes in an e-mail interview, so he chose a title that would alert them to the fact that this book is about non-legal issues.
It was launched together with Abuse Of Power, which focuses on the law and the Constitution. Both books collect essays he had written over 34 years and that had been published by online portals and by the Malaysian Bar.
6. Ranks Among The Best of Constitutional Law Advocates In Malaysia
Tommy Thomas ranks among the best of constitutional law advocates in Malaysia. Committed, charismatic and vocal, he is without doubt one of nation’s foremost lawyer and thinker, as attested to by his brilliant legal career, the breadth and depth of his dissertations, writings and talks on law, nation, institutional building, financial liberation and globalisation.
7. More Than 40 Years In Law
As a barrister of more than 40 years standing, Thomas has had the privilege of appearing as counsel in landmark cases in various branches of the law in all the courts of Malaysia, including the Privy Council in London, which was Malaysia’s highest court until 1985. Thomas has had more than 150 reported cases and countless unreported cases. He has been singled out consistently and regularly as one of Malaysia’s leading litigation lawyers by independent international publications such as The Asia Pacific Legal 500, Which Lawyer, Who’s Who Legal (The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers), Commercial Litigation Lawyers of Asia and Chambers Asia.
In the corporate field, he has appeared in Company, Liquidation, Receivership and Insolvency matters. In the commercial sphere, he has acted in Banking, Hire Purchase, Contract, Intellectual Property, Sale of Goods, Wills, Trusts and Land Law cases. Thomas has appeared in complex litigation involving bonds and other sophisticated financial instruments. In Public Law, Thomas specialises in constitutional and administrative law cases. He has also been very active in statutory interpretation disputes ranging from petroleum, asset management, securities law and local government.
Thomas has acted in ground-breaking high profile litigation involving two State Governments in relation to their off shore oil and gas claims. He has also acted for two other State Governments in constitutional and judicial review disputes. He has represented regulatory authorities as lead counsel in their complicated civil litigation matters at the apex court. Thomas is regularly consulted by other law firms and appointed senior counsel in their litigation. He often appears as lead counsel for the Malaysian Bar in intricate and controversial cases.
8. AMANAH LEGAL HEAD Lawyer
Tommy Thomas, the candidate proposed for Attorney-General (AG), not only has in-depth legal knowledge, “but more importantly, he is a senior lawyer with the utmost integrity, that is crucial for being an AG,” said Hanipa Maidin (pic), who chairs the Legal Bureau of Parti Amanah Negara.
In a letter to Malaysiakini, he said that honestly, he fully supports the proposed candidate, “without any doubt”.
Hanipa recalled his experience with Thomas while handling a contempt of court case filed by Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) against a lady lawyer called Puan Fahdah and the writer/activist Ahmad Lutfi Othman.
Thomas was representing Fahdah and Hanipa was acting for Ahmad Lutfi. They won the case.
“I saw a lawyer who was fantastic (amat hebat) and highly credible (berwibawa),” recounted Hanipa, who is also the MP for Sepang.
9. Chin Peng Lawyer
He once represented Parti Komunis Malaya leader Chin Peng in calling for the government to allow his body to be buried in Sitiawan, Perak.
He pointed out that in his book written in 2016, Thomas had described Chin Peng as one of the great liberation fighters of the second half of the 20th century and a major contributor to Merdeka.
10. Lawyer of for Lim Guan Eng
Press Conference Statement by Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng Announcing Tommy Thomas As The Penang State Government’s Counsel To Sue The Election Commission And The Federal Government At Gerden Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 26th Feb 2013.
Thomas is representing Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in his corruption cases.
11. Lawyer for MH 370 and MH 17
MH 370 Lead counsel Tommy Thomas had argued that the documents, among others, were critical evidence relating to the background and sequence of events for the incident and subsequent search operations. Court orders Malaysia Airlines to hand over documents on MH370 to passengers’ next of kin.
In court, the family’s lawyer Tommy Thomas submitted that they were concerned that it would be “a paper judgment” if the High Court ruled in favour of the family as MAS would be a shell company because all its assets had been transferred to MAB except the MH370 and MH17 lawsuits.
He said that according to the vesting order gazetted on Nov 6 last year, pursuant to the Malaysian Airline System Berhad (Administration) Act 2015, it appeared that MAS assets such as aircraft, buildings and properties were transferred to MAB and about 1,000 MAS liabilities relating to its trade and business creditors, such as suppliers of catering and maintenance services, were also transferred to MAB.
Thomas said none of the 500 MH370 and MH17 passengers’ families’ claims were transferred.
He said there were a total of 27 lawsuits filed by families of passengers on board the MH370 flight pending at the Kuala Lumpur High Court and litigation pending in the courts in the United States, China and Australia.
12. Believes The “Allah” Decision is Wrong in Constitutional Law
The sustained public attack on last week’s decision of the Court of Appeal in prohibiting the Catholic Church from using the word “Allah” in their internal publication, the Herald, is absolutely unprecedented, even in a nation very used to bad court decisions. From a constitutional perspective, the three judgments are poorly reasoned, the law misread and conclusions reached which will baffle any right-thinking student anywhere in the common law. The decision is not just wrong, it is horribly wrong, and will represent a terrible blot on our legal landscape, unless overturned quickly by the apex court, the Federal Court. Regrettably, what follows may seem unduly legalistic, but it cannot be avoided in a critique of a court decision. – Tommy Thomas
13. Believes Malaysia Is A Secular State
“UMNO wishes to state loudly that Malaysia is an Islamic country. This is based on the opinion of ulamaks who had clarified what constituted as Islamic country. If Malaysia is not an Islamic country because it does not implement the hudud, then there are no Islamic countries in the world.
If UMNO says that Malaysia is an Islamic country, it is because in an Islamic country non-Muslims have specific rights. This is in line with the teachings of Islam. There is no compulsion in Islam. And Islam does not like chaos that may come about if Islamic laws are enforced on non-Muslims. – Tommy Thomas
14. Believes Sultan and Agong Does Not Have A Free Hand” In The Selection of the Menteri Besar and Prime Minister
He explained that as a constitutional ruler, the Sultan of Selangor “does not have a free hand” in the selection of the menteri besar, citing Articles 51 and 53 of the state constitution.
Article 51(2) states that the candidate “must be of the Malay Race and profess the Muslim Religion” while Article 53(4) provides that His Highness may in his discretion dispense with provisions in the Constitution like Article 51 (2) which restricts his choice.
“Obviously, the menteri besar of any state must be a citizen of Malaysia but in Selangor there are no residential qualifications. Thus, he or she need not be born in Selangor nor have a permanent residence in the state,” Thomas told The Malaysian Insider today.
He also quoted Article 53(2)(a) which states that the Sultan can only appoint a person as menteri besar if that person is a member of the state legislative assembly and who, in his judgement, is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the assembly.
“The Federal Constitution and all the State Constitutions have identical provisions to Selangor’s Article 53(2).
“They are all modelled on Westminster constitutions with the standard words ‘commanding the confidence of the majority’ of parliamentarians,” he added.
Since the country achieved its independence in 1957, the political party (or coalition) that gains the most number of seats in general elections always selected its own leader, Thomas noted.
“So, in every case where there has been a vacancy in the office of the prime minister, whether caused by resignation or death, the acting leader of UMNO or Barisan Nasional was appointed the PM.
“Similarly, after each of the 13 general elections, the King had no discretion in such appointments. It is the same in the case of all the states. If there were exceptions in some states, the MBs were appointed without regard to constitutional niceties,” Thomas said. – Tommy Thomas
15. Quotes About Tommy Thomas
“Many Malaysian writers pull their punches or shade the truth about life in Malaysia. Just as many commentators eschew research to back up their opinions….Prominent lawyer and social commentator Tommy Thomas does not fall into either category….The book is a compilation of 32 essays and commentaries over the years, written with courage and clarity. There is his take on polarized and fractured Malaysia; a compassionate portrait of communist leader Chin Peng and the unconstitutional basis of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state…” – Brendan Pereira, Former Editor of The New Straits Times
““Tommy Thomas is undoubtedly one of the country’s foremost lawyers and thinkers as attested to by his brilliant legal career and by the breadth and depth of his writings and speeches not only on law but also on nation & institutional building as well as on financial liberalization and globalization, as is readily evident from this collection.
His forays into the political economy issues of the day such as the global financial crisis show how wide is his interest, how well he is read and what a good grasp he has of subjects very different from his field of specialization.
This collection is a must read not only for the specialists in law and the social sciences who have an abiding interest in developments in Malaysia and the Region but also for the concerned citizen who wants a better appreciation of the happenings around them.” – Dr R. Thillainathan, Past President of the Malaysian Economic Association
“Widely regarded as one of the top lawyers in the country.”- Chambers Asia Pacific
“He will be the cream at the top, strategic, clever,” says a peer. “We appear together often and I think highly of him.” – Benchmark Asia-Pacific
“Tommy Thomas has an excellent reputation based on success in some of Malaysia’s most significant court cases in recent years.”- The Legal 500
“Tommy is the king. He has an unparalleled combination of skills, knowledge and sense, which enables him to remain a top dog,’ notes one competitor.”- Benchmark Asia-Pacific