Kuala Lumpur—In his memoir, the former Attorney General of Malaysia, Tommy Thomas outlined how former Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad was responsible for the implosion of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration in early 2020.
Dr Mahathir, at the age of 92, had unexpectedly unseated then-Prime Minister Najib Razak in the General Election of May 2018, only to resign in March of last year.
He led the coalition PH government, which included his longtime rival, Mr Anwar Ibrahim.
Mr Thomas, who had served as Attorney General under the PH government, has written a memoir entitled My Story: Justice in the Wilderness.
In the book, he outlined the events that led to Dr Mahathir’s resignation, as well as the collapse of PH, which had until that time been stable, according to the Sarawak Report.
“I have found these paragraphs difficult to write. It pains me to be critical of the Prime Minister who had appointed me, and stood by me over twenty months despite massive attacks from the majority race. But posterity will judge harshly the three decisions that Tun Dr. Mahathir took on Monday, 24th February 2020,” wrote the former AG.
At that time, amid various meetings among prominent officials that led to speculation that a new governing coalition was being formed, Dr Mahathir tendered his resignation to the King.
Mr Thomas wrote that he learned of the Prime Minister’s resignation through a text he received from a friend, calling it an “utter shock.”
He wrote that he found this move “inexplicable” because “his powers stemmed from his occupation of the office of Prime Minister.”
Moreover, Mr Thomas also called the move “indefensible” since “it led to the collapse of the PH government, to the terrible disappointment of the majority of the electorate at GE14…. one can only characterise it as irrational. Indeed, bizarre.”
And while the King asked Dr Mahathir to stay on as Prime Minister, it was he who insisted on resigning, leaving the King no choice.
However, beyond merely resigning, Dr Mahathir also ended up taking down the PH government.
“At this point of time, it would have been constitutional for the Agong to appoint the Deputy Prime Minister, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as the acting Prime Minister to allow the governing PH coalition to elect its new candidate for the office of Prime Minister… The resignation was confined to that office, not the entire government,” wrote Mr Thomas.
The King wanted to follow the constitution and appoint the Deputy Prime Minister as Acting or Interim Prime Minister, but Dr Mahathir suggested that he himself be appointed interim PM.
“This is probably without precedent in modern politics,” he added.
Dr Mahathir followed this up by dissolving the Cabinet.
“Three practical consequences followed Tun’s insistence that the Cabinet must be dismissed, which the Agong constitutionally had to accept.
“First, the country was without an executive government for about three weeks. Secondly, ministers of the state and their deputies totalling about fifty were suddenly without a job. They reported to work on Monday morning in the usual way. They were dismissed at the end of the day. Thirdly, it made Tun terribly vulnerable because, by his own actions, he was left alone in government. All his support had vanished in minutes.”
Mr Thomas added that at this time, along with the rest of the world, Malaysia was under threat from the Covid pandemic. For Dr Mahathir to have fired the Minister of Health, Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, who had done a good job up to that point, “bordered on irresponsibility.”
Shortly afterward, Mr Thomas was also dismissed, although what the public knew was that the AG had resigned.
He wrote, “They wanted me removed as AG. Tun said that they were particularly incensed with my recent decision to drop all charges against all the LTTE suspects. According to them, this was a racist decision on my part. Tun said therefore I would have to leave. Tun replied that he will not renew my contract when it expires in June 2020, some three months away.”
According to the Sarawak Report, “The narrative on the collapse of the Mahathir government is just part of a series of fascinating revelations about that administration’s 18 months in power and also earlier struggles for reform in which Tommy Thomas has played a leading role through Malaysia’s recent history.”
Mr Thomas’ memoir is available here.
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