I was a political lawyer, but only voted for the first time in 2008, admits former AG Thomas

PETALING JAYA: Former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas has admitted that he only voted for the very first time in a general election at the age of 56 in 2008, despite his deep passion for politics.

In his recently released memoir My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, Thomas said that he was smitten with the US and British politics, influenced by his late father.

He said he never thought of the need to cast his vote in a general election, as "Barisan (Nasional) was voted in, general election after general election".

He also claimed that he was instrumental in advising opposition MPs to take a stand against the then Election Commission (EC) in 2013 after the general election over the "indelible ink" scandal.

He narrated how his father, who always voted against Barisan despite being in the public sector, was "an excellent teacher" who introduced him to major politicians of the both the east and west, ranging from Nikita Khruschev, Harold Macmillan, Mao Zedong, Jawaharlal Nehru, Fidel Castro to Sukarno, Ho Chi Minh and Patrice Lumumba.

He also said that as a teen, he closely followed Malaysian politics, from its formation to the separation from Singapore to the current day scenario.

He, however, participated actively in political activities in the United Kingdom in the six years he was residing in the UK when he was studying.

He said he also voted in the 1970 and 1974 UK elections,"campaigning and voting for Labour".

"Upon my return to Malaysia in 1975, I noted that the country had moved on from the scars of the May 1969 riots, but NEP (New Economic Policy) policies had altered the balance between the races.

"My parents were registered voters, and like many urban voters, regularly and consistently voted against Alliance and Barisan Nasional candidates.

"Although my parents worked in the public sector, they were not supportive of many of the government's policies. I did not register as a voter for decades, and have to admit not having cast a vote in numerous general elections before 2008.

"Nonetheless, I followed the developments in international and national politics from the time I was called to the Bar in 1976. I continue to read widely. Accordingly, I have remained a political lawyer throughout my career."

Besides that chapter, his memoir was mostly on his views of political and judiciary happenings, as well as the many cases he undertook.

One interesting chapter is titled "Unpopular Causes", in which he narrated how he was engaged to step in for Kelantan's suit against Petronas for the return of the state's oil royalty.

Prior to that, he was engaged by the late former lord president Tun Salleh Abas to act on the behalf of Terengganu for the same purpose.

He narrated how the then Terengganu mentri besar Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang refused to look him in the eye.

"Tun Salleh and I visited Menteri Besar, Tuan Haji Abdul Hadi bin Awang. I briefly summarised the strength of Terengganu's case, but he was disinterested. What was more striking was Hadi's refusal to look me in the eye. His gaze was always fixed elsewhere. I was not impressed by Hadi in my only meeting with him."

He then went on to say that Terengganu later settled their case with Petronas, but he was not privy to the settlement details.

However, he painted a more amicable picture of the late PAS president and former Kelantan menteri besar Datuk Seri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat when Kelantan engaged him for their suit.

"This was around 2010. I was most impressed with the calmness, stillness and quiet dignity of Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat. The contrast with Terengganu's Hadi could not have been greater."

He then went on to explain the intricacies of the suit and how Kelantan refused to acknowledge the Federal Government to be a defendant, despite the latter's request, which was a first.

"Despite its wholly unmeritorious application, and Kelantan's vigorous objection, the Court allowed the Federal Government to become a defendant. Nonetheless, Kelantan refused to acknowledge the order by not seeking any relief against it. Civil procedure rules were turned upside down."

He explained that the civil suit, which was still pending when he was appointed as Attorney General in 2018, was later discontinued while terms of the settlement were also never disclosed to him or his old firm.

Thomas resigned on Feb 28 last year, citing he had to do so due to the resignation of then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad four days earlier.

The 531-page memoir My Story: Justice in the Wilderness was released on Jan 30 and published by the Strategic Information and Research Development Centre.

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