They twisted again like they did last summer – but Malaysia’s attorney general Tommy Thomas and chief justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum faced heavy criticism for dancing with a minister and prominent activists at a private event in Sabah, after a video of them on stage made the rounds on social media.
The two were attending a private annual gala dinner hosted by the Sabah Law Society (SLS) at a hotel in Kota Kinabalu on Friday (Jan 18) to celebrate the start of a new legal year, The Star reported.
In the video, the pair can be seen dancing on stage – alongside de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong and prominent lawyers and activists Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Siti Kasim – to popular 60s rock ‘n roll tune “Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker.
Others in the crowd can also be seen dancing in the foreground.
According to The Star, SLS president Brenndon Soh said the celebration was a “annual social occasion” for the legal community in Sabah and Sarawak, and had been held since 2001.
But Umno Youth chief Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said on Saturday (Jan 19) that the chief justice and attorney general should not have courted controversy by socialising with “politicians and high-profile individuals”.
This would “chip away at the rakyat’s (people’s) trust towards any decision they make in the future,” The Star reported him as saying.
Some netizens agreed that the dance could be seen as unethical.
What’s important is public perception…I remember what C.J. H. T Ong advised us as young magistrates; make sure not to mingle freely with lawyers, prosecutors or police officers to avoid justice being seen compromised. Life can be lonely but your integrity is safeguarded.
— syed hamid albar (@syedhamidalbar) January 20, 2019
I dont mind the dancing tbh. What i find extremely inappropriate is the CJ, AG & members of BC having such close relationship w each other. That doesnt sit well with me i.e. potential conflict of interest & obstruction of justice. Reminds me of judicial corruption in peru
— abdul rahman (@AbdulRaveman) January 19, 2019
On Jan 20, Umno vice president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaacob called for Thomas and Malanjum to resign from their posts, as their dancing could have caused the public to form a negative impression of Malaysia’s judiciary, the New Straits Times reported.
Former PM Najib Razak added that in 2016, then-Attorney General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali had also been questioned for dancing alongside former ministers at a Merdeka Day celebration, and suggested that the current government keeping silent was a sign of double standards, Malay Mail reported.
But other netizens stood up for the pair, saying that the event was, after all, a dinner and dance – and social interactions were not unreasonable.
People calling for the resignation of our CJ and AG over a video of them dancing at the Opening of Legal Year ’19need to get a grip.
They were attending an event w fellow lawyers and practitioners. EVERYBODY WAS DANCING. Would it make you lot feel better if Shafee was up there pic.twitter.com/N3nRQeVfCi
— IF (@IvanFvan) January 19, 2019
So they’re saying AGs cant dance and has to be serious 24/7 ? Get a life man, there’s time for work and time for relaxation 🤦🏼♂️
— K. Chin Kuan (@Minwookie890) January 19, 2019
thats right. no dancing at the same area. no walking on the same street or drive on the same road. no eating in same restaurants. no shopping in the same malls. no riding on same trains or planes. no living in the same town #keepitseparated
— victor2.0 (@tsfoo) January 21, 2019
The Bar and the Bench have been dinning together for hundred over years. Dancing is part and parcel of the social event. Suddenly it becomes a crime in Malaysia? Those critics have nothing else to talk about?
— paulraja (@paulraj35373450) January 20, 2019
According to The Star, AAS president Ranbir Singh Sangha said that the criticisms were an attempt to “misinterpret what was a social and harmonious occasion reflective of (East Malaysian) hospitality and politicise it.”
He added: “Those who criticise may not know about the morals and ethics that are culturally held high in Sabah and Sarawak at such events.”
Sangha said that the AAS would organise a dance competition for next year’s gala dinner, and planned to invite Malanjum and Thomas, as well as lawyers and members of the judiciary.
And at least one person felt the whole thing was Chubby Checker’s fault for writing such a catchy song.
Haha… Dont blame the dancers lah. The real culprit is the late Chubby Checker lah. If you don’t believe it, play his song ‘Let’s twist again’ and stand. See what happens to your body. I experienced it before lah.
To avoid any repeat, let’s have the nadyid in future.
— BT Lim (@bt_charis14) January 19, 2019