Monday, February 22, 2021

Jesse James, Zakir Naik and other problems in Thomas’ story

Several errors and logical shortcomings have emerged in Tommy Thomas' autobiography.

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As the storm over former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ autobiography looks set to linger for some days, some factual and logical shortcomings of his book have surfaced to the careful reader.

Here are some errors and misses, some bordering on faux pas, committed by either Thomas or the dozen individuals he said had read the entire draft and recommended changes and corrections to the book “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”.

Jesse James

Thomas’ book states that Jesse James, one of 19th century America’s most notorious outlaws and criminals, was arrested, when proposing that a bounty be offered for fugitive billionaire Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low.

“I recommended that Malaysia offer a bounty for his capture, and return to face justice. After all that was how Jesse James was captured in the 19th century,” Thomas wrote.

But the story of Jesse James has been immortalised in the long title of a 1983 book – “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” – so much so that it would be hard for anyone to commit a factual error.

After more than a decade of running from the law and committing countless robberies and murders, James was shot in the back of his head by gang member Robert Ford, in exchange for the promise of a large reward from the governor of Missouri.

Pakatan Harapan

Thomas in his book revealed meetings where he made known his interest in filling the post of attorney-general as far back as the 2013 election.

“The fruits of our discussion meant that the leading candidate for the post of attorney-general in the event of a Pakatan Harapan victory in GE13, Karpal Singh, would be ruled out, because he was a member of Parliament and no doubt a Cabinet member,” he wrote.

In the 2013 election, Pakatan Harapan did not exist, and the opposition coalition was also not in the same form as it evolved into in 2018. It was called Pakatan Rakyat, a loose coalition made up of PKR, DAP and PAS. That coalition collapsed not long after following inevitable differences between PAS and DAP.

Third countries for Zakir Naik

In recalling his discussions with top officials on the case of Indian fugitive preacher Dr Zakir Naik, Thomas has probably unwittingly revealed his lack of knowledge on geopolitics, or the failure to update on highly publicised current events.

Thomas wrote about his efforts to get authorities to deport Naik to a third country after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the preacher could only be deported if there was a third country willing to accept him. To this, Thomas suggested several Muslim countries including Bangladesh and Iran.

Proposing that Naik be deported to Bangladesh is like saying Osama bin Laden could seek refuge in New York. After a terrorist attack at a cafe in Dhaka in 2016, investigators in Bangladesh said two of the assailants were inspired by Naik’s speeches. Following this, authorities also banned Naik’s Peace TV.

Thomas’ suggestion of Iran is even more problematic. It is a known fact that Naik follows the Salafist strand of Islam, in direct conflict with the Shiite Islam widely practised in Iran. There is no way Iran, with zero history of accepting dissidents, would have accepted Naik or risked its very close economic ties with India.

Dead people

Yet another problem with Thomas’ autobiography is the claims he made about prominent individuals who are no longer around to confirm his narrative of the private meetings and conversations he had with them.

They include lawyer Karpal Singh and former lord president Salleh Abas. Thomas, on a mission to gather support for his candidacy as the attorney-general prior to the 2013 polls, claimed that Karpal had assured him of his full support for his appointment.

“It was agreed that the matter would remain confidential,” Thomas wrote.

Likewise, Thomas said Salleh was “very excited at the prospect of my candidacy”.

“He was full of encouragement, saying joyfully that he was sure that I would restore the lustre of chambers, which had much deteriorated after his tenure in the 1970s.”

Since these meetings took place in private, there is no way of verifying the conversations.

Another dead individual mentioned by Thomas is Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007. He recalled that she and another “Oxbridge” scholar had joined him for dinner but without speaking to him or his friend. Thomas described her as “haughty” and “arrogant”, saying he immediately took an “intense dislike” of her.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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