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Malaysian royals agree with government's choice of A-G

Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA'S royal rulers have agreed to the government's plan to appoint a non-Muslim attorney-general, the palace said, after a near two-week impasse, Reuters reported.

Groups representing the ethnic Malay majority rejected the plan to appoint top lawyer Tommy Thomas in what amounted to probably the first resistance faced by new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad since he won a stunning election victory last month on promises to fight corruption and reform institutions.

Malaysia's palace said King Muhammad V had decided to end the tenure of Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali and appoint Mr Thomas as his replacement on Dr Mahathir's advice and after consulting with the heads of the other eight royal households.

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"The appointment will preserve the special rights of the Malays and Bumiputera and the status of Islam as the religion of the federation," palace official Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz said in a statement on behalf of the king late on Monday.

Mr Thomas is the first non-Malay to take the post of attorney-general since Malaysia was formed in 1963.

Malaysia's council of rulers, which is formed by the heads of the country's nine sultanates, was initially scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the government's plan to appoint Mr Thomas.

Its decision is likely to quell dissent in the Malay-Muslim community, which makes up about 60 per cent of Malaysia's population of roughly 32 million.

An ethnic Indian Christian, Mr Thomas's key task will be to prosecute those involved in graft at heavily indebted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The 1MDB scandal was one of the main reasons behind the downfall of former prime minister Najib Razak.

Dr Mahathir proposed Mr Thomas for the job nearly two weeks ago, local media had reported, after ordering Mr Apandi to go on leave.

Mr Apandi cleared Mr Najib of any wrongdoing in the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal.

The Star newspaper reported Mr Thomas as saying he was "humbled" by the "awesome responsibility" of being named the country's new Attorney-General.

Speaking to reporters outside his law firm in Bangsar on Tuesday, Mr Thomas confirmed that he met with Dr Mahathir earlier that day and would be meeting him today as well.

He added that he would not give any further comments on his appointment until he receives his letter of appointment and has taken his oath of office, a process which would take a few days.

The incoming A-G is founder and partner of litigation firm Tommy Thomas.

When told that Mr Thomas had represented Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Dr Mahathir said the lawyer had also represented Barisan Nasional leaders on other occasions.