KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The Yang di-Pertuan Agong had intended to have PKR’s Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail be appointed as interim prime minister after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned in February 2020, a report on excerpts from former attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’ book said.

In a report by news portal The Vibes, Thomas in his newly-published memoir My Story: Justice in the Wilderness however said that Dr Mahathir then presented his name for the interim prime minister post — a temporary position which was necessary following his own resignation as prime minister.

“This is probably without precedent in modern politics. A prime minister who is comfortably in power, resigns of his own free will and volition,” he was quoted saying by the portal.

Thomas reportedly said that Dr Mahathir should have left the political scene after holding the most important position in the government, in line with his decision to voluntarily resign as prime minister.

Dr Wan Azizah was at that time the deputy prime minister, with Thomas reportedly saying that having her appointed as interim prime minister would be a constitutional decision.

On February 24, 2020, Dr Mahathir had resigned as prime minister when his party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s pullout of the Pakatan Harapan coalition caused the latter to lose majority support in the Dewan Rakyat. 

On the same day, Dr Mahathir’s Cabinet was dissolved following his resignation and upon his advice as prime minister to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, while the Yang di-Pertuan consented to the appointment of Dr Mahathir as interim prime minister while waiting for the appointment of a new prime minister and formation of a new Cabinet.

The Vibes also reported Thomas as questioning in his memoir the decision by Dr Mahathir to have the Cabinet dissolved, with the lawyer quoted saying: “It must be kept in mind that Tun’s resignation was personal, only as prime minister. The resignation was confined to that office, not the entire government.”

He also reportedly cited the precedent of deputy prime ministers having become prime ministers since the resignation of Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

The Vibes also reported Thomas as attorney-general having advised the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that the Dewan Rakyat would be the best place to decide which MP had the majority support of MPs. However, Dr Mahathir had several days later said efforts to determine the next prime minister through statutory declarations by MPs had not provided a conclusion and with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong having told Dr Mahathir to call for a Dewan Rakyat sitting to decide on this.

Thomas was reported saying that the Dewan Rakyat speaker on February 28 rejected the prime minister’s letter asking for a Dewan Rakyat sitting to debate on a suitable candidate for the prime minister post, arguing however that such a decision was based on “purely technical reasons”.

Thomas said the legitimacy of the selection of the new prime minister would not be disputed if the Dewan Rakyat had met on this matter.

Published by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD), the 573-page book is available for purchase from Gerakbudaya.