Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed shock over former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ version of the events leading to the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government last year, describing his claim that the Agong had wanted to appoint then-deputy prime minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as interim prime minister as “nonsense”.
“I cannot understand how a lawyer cannot understand this was not a change of prime minister. The PH government had lost. The Agong could not appoint Wan Azizah, the deputy prime minister, as acting prime minister,” said Mahathir in the first response by the former prime minister to Thomas’ recently released autobiography, “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”.
Thomas in his book argued that Mahathir’s resignation in February 2020 was personal and would not have meant the collapse of the PH government.
He also said that the Agong had wanted to appoint Wan Azizah as interim prime minister, but that Mahathir had blocked the move and submitted his own name.
Mahathir today said Thomas had no knowledge of what had transpired.
“Tommy knew nothing about my resignation. According to Tommy, I told him that the Agong had wanted to appoint Wan Azizah as interim prime minister. This is nonsense,” he wrote in his blog.
“After reluctantly accepting my resignation, the Agong suggested I become interim prime minister. Wan Azizah could not be acting prime minister or interim prime minister because the PH government had already collapsed.”
Mahathir, who will turn 96 this year, resigned as prime minister on Feb 24 as top leaders of the PH coalition fell out over a series of differences, chiefly on when Mahathir would step down to make way for PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim to assume the top post.
His resignation caused the collapse of the 22-month-old PH government.
The power vacuum was filled by Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin who received the support of MPs from Bersatu, Barisan Nasional, PAS, GPS as well as about a dozen PKR MPs who quit to become independents.
Mahathir said although his resignation was personal, there was no way the Cabinet could have remained.
He said he had wanted to form a unity government beyond party affiliations, and admitted that he lacked majority support after PH MPs backed out.
He also said he was accused of being a dictator by DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang.
“He supported Anwar as the PH candidate. Had the 92 votes gone to me I would have had 154 votes. You can imagine what direction the nation would take when all parties put the nation first,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Mahathir said he had endorsed Thomas for the top legal post despite him being one of those “who hated me”.
He confirmed Thomas’ claim of a meeting they had prior to the 2018 general election, where lawyers Zainur Zakaria and Ambiga Sreenevasan had recommended Thomas’ name for the AG’s post in the event that the opposition won.
Mahathir said he was aware of the opposition from the Malays to Thomas, adding that their anger over the matter was “terrible”.
But he said he was disappointed by previous Malay AGs who had refused to take action against Najib Razak over the massive 1MDB scandal.
“I was prepared to face criticism from the Malays. But I could not stop my Malay critics from condemning me over Tommy Thomas’ appointment as AG.”
Mahathir said despite facing a backlash, he had even accepted Thomas’ decision to drop charges against a dozen men accused of terrorism-related offences over their support for the Tamil Tigers militants in Sri Lanka.
“I trusted him and defended him when the Malays condemned him. His term was ending. I recommended a Tan Sri-ship for him,” he added.
Mahathir also revealed that PAS had never demanded that he remove Thomas as AG.
“But I had taken so much bashing because of him that I felt he should not continue after ending his term.
“But when I resigned as prime minister he came to see me to inform me that since I appointed him and since I was no longer PM, he should also resign.
“His account about my resignation is quite fantastic.”