KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed regret over his decision to hire Tan Sri Tommy Thomas as the attorney general (AG) following the release of the latter’s memoirs, My Story: Justice in the Wilderness.
In an exclusive interview with online news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Dr Mahathir said he got along well with Thomas during his tenure as the AG despite the latter having been “very much against him” during his administration under Barisan Nasional (BN).
“I didn’t realise he had some ‘past’, which still seemed to influence him,” said Dr Mahathir.
In his book, Thomas made several assertions about Dr Mahathir, involving events leading up to the latter’s resignation as prime minister in the Pakatan Harapan government, all of which the Langkawi MP rebutted or denied to FMT.
In the interview, Dr Mahathir explained that he was willing to defend Thomas in his capacity as the AG, knowing full well the backlash he would receive from the Malay community as the first non-Malay to helm the position.
“I thought Tommy Thomas would become a good, professional AG who would do things according to the law, and not because he has to do what I tell him to do.
“With some trepidation, I accepted him as the AG knowing full well it did not go down well with the Malays. Before this, all the AGs have been Malays, this is the first time we have an AG who is a non-Malay.
“But I was prepared to defend him but had I known this would have happened, I would have elected somebody else, but at the time, I thought it would be a new experience, we have an AG who is professional, I thought he was,” he said.
In the same interview, Dr Mahathir also commented that previous AGs had not carried out their duties in a satisfactory manner.
He cited as an example those who followed the orders of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak instead of pursuing legal action against the latter over his alleged role in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
“They made decisions which are not right. For example, Najib Razak was said to have done no wrong, and yet today we know that he has been found guilty. You see, for the AG to say he had done no wrong and to deny a hearing in a court of law is wrong,” he said.
Thomas’ 500-page book My Story: Justice in the Wilderness was published on January 30 and has generated intense interest and controversy ever since. Its contents cover his tenure as the AG from 2018 to 2020.
Since then, Najib has issued a demand for an apology via his lawyers, and is also seeking RM10 million in damages, over allegations made against him in the book concerning the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006.
He was followed by former solicitor general III Datuk Mohamad Hanafiqh Zakaria, who filed a police report against Thomas for allegedly claiming in the book that he was incapable of prosecuting Najib for corruption in the SRC International case.
Yesterday, Thomas’ immediate predecessor as AG Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali also filed a police report, claiming he had violated the Official Secrets Act by publishing his memoir.