Tommy Thomas: Non-Malay AG still possible, up to leaders

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Tommy Thomas, the country’s first non-Malay attorney-general, is positive that Malaysia could see more such appointments in the future.

In an interview with Astro Awani last night, he said for this to happen, however, it would very much be dependent on political leaders.

“To answer your specific question, yes, there is no reason why a prime minister of the day cannot say ‘I want to choose the best and the brightest and that means my cabinet is going to be 10 Chinese, five Indians and five from Sabah Sarawak’.

Choo Choy May

“Nothing is going to happen. The sun continues to shine, birds continue to sing, and Malaysia remains a stable country.

“It is really up to the leaders, political leaders to lead. And once they stand behind their appointments, it’s forgotten.

“Whatever you say about prime minister Tun Mahathir, he stood by my appointment for 20 months much to his cost,” he told the interviewers Melisa Idris and Sharaad Kuttan.

Thomas was appointed attorney-general in 2018 by the then Pakatan Harapan administration, which was led by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

This courted flak for the ruling political coalition and Mahathir, especially from far-right groups that believe key positions in government should only be held by Malay Muslims.

Thomas’ time in office was cut short when the Harapan government collapsed following a political coup in February 2020. Mahathir then stepped down from his second premiership and Thomas resigned soon after.

The prominent lawyer said it was fair for people to criticise appointments, including those who choose to look at such issues from a racial and religious perspective.

“I think it’s fair if people criticise appointments. That is a democracy, particularly online democracy. You respect that.

“There is no problem with online criticism. And if a segment wants to focus on the race or religion of a character, personality or an issue from those lenses, so be it, you can’t educate everybody in Malaysia

“For me, it’s a matter for the leaders,” he said.

Asked about the current pandemic in Malaysia, Thomas questioned the speed of the government’s Covid-19 immunisation programme, particularly the procurement of vaccines.

Thomas said that if he were still in office, he would have started working on the contracts to procure the vaccines much earlier so that Malaysia would be the first in the line.

“Common sense would tell you vaccines are the solution. So you must authorise me as the lawyer for the government and a few others to go and start having contracts with all the companies in this world to get the vaccines.

“So, when the vaccines are out, and they were out by December last year, we are the first in the line.

“To me, the US, the UK and Israel are three examples where vaccines have helped solve the problem. We are far behind in vaccines.”

However, Thomas told his interviewers that he has no interest in coming back as attorney-general.

“I think history demonstrates that those who come back to office in whatever role, have always had a poor record in the second part.

“But I believe if there is a reform-minded government, I am happy to help in different ways. I will be happy to help,” he said. – Malaysiakini