PETALING JAYA,Feb 3: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has broken his silence on former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ tell-all book, expressing shock and bemusement over some of the claims.
In a lengthy statement, Mahathir said Thomas’ account over his resignation as prime minister was “quite fantastic” as Thomas did not have knowledge of some of the things he wrote about.
For instance, he denied telling Thomas that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong wanted to appoint then deputy prime minister Dr Wan Azizah Ismail as interim prime minister.
“This is nonsense”, said Mahathir.
While he admitted that his resignation was a personal choice, Mahathir said there was no way the PH Cabinet could have remained as it had lost majority support to remain as government.
“I cannot understand how a lawyer cannot understand this was not a change of prime minister. The PH government had lost.
“The Agong could not appoint Wan Azizah, the deputy prime minister as acting prime minister. Like me, she did not have a majority after PH was overthrown by PPBM leaving together with Azmin’s (Ali) faction of PKR or Justice Party. Neither did the Cabinet.”
Mahathir also admitted that he had expected to win when the Agong met with MPs to hear their views on who should lead the next government, as Perikatan Nasional secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin had obtained statutory declarations from all Umno and PAS members supporting him.
“Hamzah’s plan was to get me to head a new coalition consisting of Umno, PAS and PPBM. I would still be prime minister and that should persuade me to leave PH.”
He added that PH MPs had named opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as their candidate instead, after the latter claimed that he had the majority support to become prime minister although he only had a total of 92 MPs on his side.
“I managed to get only 62. So both of us lost.”
Commenting on his relationship with Thomas, Mahathir said the two of them had got on “quite well”, adding that he trusted and had defended him when the Malays condemned him.
“PAS never directly asked me to drop him. But I had taken so much bashing because of him that I felt he should not continue after ending his term.
“But when I resigned as prime minister he came to see me to inform me that since I appointed him and since I was no longer prime minister, he should also resign.”
Mahathir also said he did not believe in overstaying his welcome, adding that he had resigned in 2003 as he felt he had been the prime minister for too long, despite being labelled by many as a dictator.
Meanwhile, his reason for resigning as PPBM chairman and prime minister, he said, was simply because his party had lost confidence in him and PH had lost its majority.
While he was still interim prime minister, Mahathir said he had proposed for a unity government as he felt that all political parties should work together for the sake of the nation, similar to the idea second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein had when he formed Barisan Nasional.
“I thought that something similar was needed. But I failed because (Lim) Kit Siang said I was trying to become a dictator. He supported Anwar as the PH candidate.
“Had the 92 votes gone to me I would have had 154 votes. You can imagine what direction the nation would take when all parties put the nation first.”