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No Malays? Ex-AG Thomas shares his idea of ‘best and brightest’ Cabinet

He also criticises the pace of Malaysia's vaccine rollout, saying the country lags far behind Israel, the US and the UK.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Former attorney-general Tommy Thomas. Photo: AP
Former attorney-general Tommy Thomas. Photo: AP

Tommy Thomas recently gave an example of a Cabinet comprising the “best and brightest” without the inclusion of any Malay ministers, in comments that could renew claims that he had displayed racism against the Malays in a book he wrote some four months ago.

In an interview with news channel Astro Awani’s talk show programme on May 28, Thomas was asked if he thought there would ever again be a non-Malay appointed to the top legal post in Malaysia following the controversy surrounding his memoir “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”.

“There is no reason why a prime minister of the day cannot say ‘I want to choose the best and the brightest’ and if that means my Cabinet is going to be 10 Chinese, five Indians and five from Sabah and Sarawak, nothing is going to happen,” Thomas told the Consider This programme.

“The sun continues to shine, the birds continue to sing. And Malaysia is a stable country,” he said.

Earlier this year, Thomas was roundly condemned by political leaders from both sides of the divide as well as top civil servants over his insinuations that officers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers were not competent to handle high-profile cases including the 1MDB case.

In his book, Thomas among others accused Malay government leaders of doing nothing while “racist” attacks were thrown at non-Muslim politicians from DAP, and suggested that the Malay community had been “brainwashed”.

Thomas became the first non-Malay to be appointed as AG, weeks after Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) general election victory in 2018.

He resigned following the collapse of the PH government in February 2020.

Thomas’ criticism of government lawyers earned him condemnation from his successor Idrus Harun, who said the former AG suffered from “narrow thinking” and was ignorant of his role.

Thomas’ book, which started with a chapter saying his membership in the minority Syrian Christian community was an “infinite blessing”, was also condemned by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as reckless, insensitive and racist.

“It betrays a deep-seated, even Freudian-like, prejudice against Malays fomented through years of racism,” Anwar had said in response to claims by Thomas in his book.

Meanwhile, in the interview with Astro Awani, Thomas avoided questions posed by the host on the state of emergency.

Instead, he claimed that had he continued as the AG, he would have solved the problem of slow vaccines rollout when the pandemic was in its early stage.

Thomas then named Israel alongside the US and UK as governments which have solved the Covid-19 pandemic through vaccines.

“We are far behind in vaccines,” he said.

While Israel has reached herd immunity, human rights groups had criticised it for discriminating in its vaccination programme against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

“While Israel celebrates a record-setting vaccination drive, millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will receive no vaccine or have to wait much longer – there could hardly be a better illustration of how Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones,” Amnesty International said in a statement in January.