Old-school honesty in Thomas’ memoir

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

– Maya Angelou, American poet

I believe it is true that many of us had long pointed our fingers at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the main player responsible for the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government last February.

Well, Dr Mahathir was the prime minister and supreme leader of PH then. So, he has to shoulder the bulk of the blame. His abrupt and unilateral decision to resign as prime minister at the height of the Sheraton putsch was widely believed to be the trigger point for PH’s implosion.

Now, we can claim we were not wrong to blame Dr Mahathir. The latest revelations by former Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas on Mahathir’s conduct in the final days of the PH government just about say it all for us. His sequence of actions, including the blunders, fingers him as primarily responsible for PH’s untimely demise.

Several news portals have started publishing excerpts of Thomas’ just-launched memoir, the content of which does not augur well for the legacy of the former two-time premier.

Let me look at Thomas and his new book in this manner. I would not describe it as an attempt to vilify or disparage Dr Mahathir in any manner.

No, Thomas has no reason to demean the man who appointed him the AG in the first place. In one instance, Thomas says it pained him to make certain revelations about Dr Mahathir given his overall respect for his former boss.

To me, there is a rare, old-school honesty in the memoir. As the ex-AG, Thomas was not shooting blanks in the dark. He was personally involved, with direct links to the prime minister and others in the corridors of power.

It is also important for Thomas to shed light on some previously unknown facts that were crucial to understand the significance of the Sheraton putsch and its aftermath. And that should be recorded for posterity and accounts of history must be true and factual.

We must also bear in mind that Thomas is not a politician and I doubt at his age today, he is keen to embark on a political career. A respected legal eagle in private practice like Thomas does not need politics to survive.

On that count, I want to believe that he does not owe any political leader any favour. This is crucial for anyone to speak and write with integrity and honesty and without fear or favour.

I have often said that I derive no pleasure in criticising our 95-year-old elder statesman. Whatever his weaknesses and failings, Dr Mahathir deserves that much reverence from even his worst detractors.

However, Thomas’ revelations of some of Dr Mahathir’s actions have laid bare the former premier’s fickle mindedness, his racist streak, doublespeak personality and even the untrustworthy character in him.

Dr Mahathir miscalculated and blundered because he was over-confident and in self-denial. He refused to accept that loyalty and allegiance of his allies and cohorts were never permanent.

He thought that a man of his stature would never lose grip of power, only to realise too late that was his main folly. Dr Mahathir just didn’t see it coming — the backstabbing and betrayal from within his own flock. 

To ask Thomas to resign on the very first day of his appointment as AG because of strong Malay resistance exposed the racist streak in Dr Mahathir. Then, to allow Thomas to continue in the job the next minute “because PAS has no objection” showed his fickle mindedness.

Twenty months later, Dr Mahathir told Thomas to step down again as his departure as AG was a condition from PAS in agreeing to a new national unity government which never materialised.

Wasn’t Dr Mahathir swaying like a lalang?

Someone wrote that “the fox was outfoxed”. This is a fact. Dr Mahathir was clearly played out in his own game by his PPBM colleagues plus Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and his co-conspirators.

Dr Mahathir resigned and was summoned by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. When the King requested him to reconsider, Dr Mahathir would not retract it.

However, when the King wanted Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail as interim prime minister, Dr Mahathir quickly put his own name forward. Thomas was understandably bewildered. Who wouldn’t be? What on earth was Dr Mahathir thinking?

Had Dr Mahathir been able to think and act rationally then, Malaysia would have its first woman prime minister a year ago. Many would be more than happy to give Dr Azizah a chance to lead. I would too.

That would also mean that PH could possibly govern till GE15 in 2023 and we would not be stuck with an illegitimate backdoor government today.

Alas, that was not to be because of the insistence and persistence of one old man who must have it his way or the highway.

It’s well and good that Dr Mahathir has now been put in his place. In politics, no one is invincible forever. Let no politician forget that.

Thomas’ memoir, My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, is published by GB Gerakbudaya. It was launched last Saturday. 

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.