PETALING JAYA : Former attorney-general Tommy Thomas says lingering and growing distrust among politicians within Pakatan Harapan and Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s failure to manage the coalition effectively led to its fall early last year.
He said other factors included the tensions between Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, and the failure of Malay parties in PH to rebuff racial narratives spreading in the country.
Thomas said the unity between the Malay parties and their other coalition partners “evaporated” after the general election, with PPBM, PKR and Amanah choosing to remain silent on racially charged narratives.
“Why were Tun Dr Mahathir, Muhyiddin Yassin and Redzuan Yusof, from Bersatu (PPBM), Anwar Ibrahim, Azmin Ali and Wan Azizah, from PKR, Khalid Samad and Mohamad Sabu, from Amanah, so silent in the face of repeated onslaughts from their people?
“If each had taken turns to immediately respond in a sensible, moderate manner, calmly dealing with the facts, the effect of racist attacks would have diminished,” he said in his book, “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”.
On Mahathir, Thomas wrote that he was not as assertive in comparison to his first spell as prime minister (from 1981-2003) and was unable to present the coalition as a united front.
This was shown by a lack of cohesion among leaders of component parties. “Cabinet ministers, sometimes from the same party, were publicly taking positions contrary to that of the Cabinet or of their colleagues,” he wrote.
Thomas also questioned Mahathir’s “constant and harsh attacks on the Malays”, which he said was “a riddle” to many PH members as the Malay electorate was a significant part of their voter base.
“Tun ought to have acted like a statesman, unifying the different races,” Thomas said.
Another example of Mahathir allowing problems to fester was his failure to make a timely decision on the timeline for Anwar’s succession as prime minister, thus creating growing distrust between the two leaders.
Thomas said Anwar’s doubts over his future as PM were compounded by the quickly growing ties between Mahathir and Azmin Ali, whom Thomas described as “Anwar’s arch enemy in PKR”. Azmin was given the newly created portfolio of economic affairs minister and frequently travelled overseas with the prime minister.
PH and 1MDB
Thomas also questioned whether PH had come to power equipped with a plan to govern the nation; bringing former prime minister Najib Razak and others to account for alleged crimes was not the coalition’s responsibility, he said, despite the alleged offences being a driving force of the election campaign.
He said PH “certainly was not keen on pushing legislative reforms, despite the many promises in its manifesto” and added that the electorate takes promises seriously “and political parties which ignore, disregard or break promises are punished by voters”.
Regarding Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal, Thomas asserted that members of Umno and Barisan Nasional could not shirk culpability.
“However much Najib had centralised power in the office of the prime minister, no one in a leadership role in BN or Umno could credibly claim that he or she did not know of these frauds.”
After the revelation of US$600 million being found in Najib’s personal account in July 2015 and the sacking of deputy prime minister Muhyiddin and senior minister Shafie Apdal, “those who remained in office in the Cabinet, in BN and Umno, were complicit,” he added.