KUALA LUMPUR: With Umno lawyer Mohamad Shafee Abdullah recently grabbing headlines for his exploits, Utusan Malaysia editors added more fuel today by asking if the Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail, would survive for a new term.

Awang Selamat, the collective pseudonym for the paper’s senior editors, speculated that Gani would be in his last term in office, having been Attorney-General for 12 years.

Talk has been circulating in recent weeks that Mohd Shafee was aiming, or was being placed in position, to become the next Attorney-General. Shafee, who is in private practice, was appointed by the Attorney-General on contract to lead the government prosecution team in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal against conviction on sodomy charges.

If it comes about, it would be a repeat of 1998, when Anwar was first charged with sodomy, and abuse of power.

It was because of that trial that Gani himself had come to prominence when he was chosen to lead the prosecution team. Anwar was sentenced to jail, but the sodomy conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Gani was appointed Attorney-General in 2002, while Musa Hassan, the police officer who led the investigation against Anwar, was appointed Inspector-General of Police in 2006.

Anwar has accused Gani and Musa Hassan, who led the police investigation, of fabricating evidence against him, an allegation which has been backed by a former Kuala Lumpur police chief Mat Zain Ibrahim.

Today’s Awang Selamat column said talk in legal circles was that Gani would retire at the end of his contract in October next year, and the names of several candidates had been raised.

“Awang is excited to know who this new face will be… as everyone knows, the A-G seat is a hot one, what with the current challenging political landscape,” the column said.

As Attorney-General, Gani has the power of the Public Prosecutor, and has been embroiled in several controversial decisions, such as choosing not to prosecute Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali who had made a threat to burn Malay Bibles.

He is also the government’s chief lawyer and headed the legal team to the International Court of Justice on Malaysia’s claim to sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh, which was disputed by Singapore.

The court awarded the island to Singapore, after controversial claims about faked photographs being submitted by the Malaysian side.

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