Malaysia's ex-attorney-general says Mahathir told him to resign a day after appointment

Former Malaysian Attorney-General Tommy Thomas (left) said then-premier Mahathir Mohamad wanted him to step down in 2018. PHOTOS: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, ST FILE

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysian Attorney-General Tommy Thomas has claimed that then-premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told him to resign a day after he was appointed, due to opposition from the majority Malays.

In the prologue to the lawyer's memoir My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, Tan Sri Thomas said Dr Mahathir had wanted him to step down though he had just been appointed A-G in June 2018.

This was a few weeks after the Pakatan Harapan coalition led by Dr Mahathir won federal power in the May 9 general election.

Mr Thomas detailed how "elated and grateful" he had initially felt when the former premier had first told him that the Malaysian King had approved his appointment as the new government's chief legal officer.

"The rug was immediately pulled from under my feet. Tun dropped a bombshell.

"Despite the King's decision, Tun wanted me to resign because of the scale and magnitude of the Malay opposition to my appointment, " Mr Thomas wrote.

He added that he was "utterly astonished" that the "professional opportunity of a lifetime" had slipped out of his fingers so quickly.

"Tun wanted my resignation the next day. Utterly dumbfounded and defeated, I told Tun that he would have to issue a press statement explaining my resignation.

"Meanwhile, news of the Agong's (King's) assent to my appointment the previous day had become widespread. I returned to my law office feeling crushed," he wrote.

"Everyone was so thrilled and proud to receive me as the new A-G of Malaysia. I thanked them all and tried my hardest to maintain a brave face, " he said.

Mr Thomas said he reached out to close confidantes regarding the resignation, and to ask them help in drafting a press statement.

"They were outraged, and insisted that I refuse to resign. They failed to convince me.

"I accepted that if Tun wanted me to resign I should oblige. It was his call, and I just had to respect, even if I could see no justification for it, " he said.

Mr Thomas, who has gone back to private practice, didn't say what made Dr Mahathir change his mind.

Mr Thomas remained the A-G until Pakatan Harapan was toppled from power in late-February last year.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.