Tommy Thomas and the burden of race - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, February 04, 2021
FairMalaysian : Well, we need have to argue that perhaps Malaysia is the most racist country in the world. Its institutionalised racism and its uncanny pretense all these years has taken a toll.
Someone appointed in MARA allegedly steals by way of commissions in the millions. When the MACC broke the news yesterday, I was not surprised at all. A Malay stealing from the funds allocated for Malays. Beyond all this, even his religion never made him feel it is wrong to cheat on the money he has been entrusted with.
It looks like the MACC's budget has been increasing over the years. Does this mean that corruption has also been increasing. There is a possibility of putting corruption in the backburner if those in the power and civil service refuse to accept bribes. And is it a coincidence that the civil service consists of mostly Malays. Isn't it a shame that this scourge has had a permanent residency.
I have to say this. Once I went to see someone senior in the civil service to get something done. I was told that he was saying his prayers as he is very strict with his five times prayers a day. Eventually when we met, it took me some 45 mins to get an answer on what he could have given in under 10 mins. He was simply beating around the bush to drive home a point - to be rewarded for his effort to "help". Of course, I never got it.
This is not to offend anyone or any race but this is how sick this country is. When Najib,Tengku Adnan, Md Isa and a number of them lay their hand on people's money, it begs the question on how far Islam as the religion of the Federation had failed. These are no ordinary people, they were leaders. If this land can produce a devout and a simple religious leader like Tok Guru, why that had become an exception rather than the norm?
Malaysiakini : “Everything I did was painted in racial tones and hues. And they succeeded. The brainwashing achieved its objectives.” - Tommy Thomas
excerpts from Tommy Thomas’ memoir about, amongst other things, his
brief stint as attorney-general (AG) for this country, it is amazing
that a non-Malay could do anything without being vilified by the state
because of their ethnicity.
His message about a dithering
Harapan when it came to reforms - imagine that, the prison board,
perhaps the most relevant authority when it comes to the death penalty;
welcoming abolishing the death penalty but Harapan political operatives
dithering and pandering – is of no surprise, the reality of the racial
dynamics and a festering 'Don’t spook the Malays agenda' is perhaps the
greatest impediment to reform in this country.
you could have an honest discussion about policies waffling when it
comes to Harapan, the fact that race is always a factor when it comes to
policy and personalities make such conversations impossible. Not to
mention the disingenuous reading of our Constitution and political norms
that non-Malays feel are verboten to redefine.
As someone who has
worked in the security apparatus of the state, as a non-Malay, there
are always times you begin to wonder if what you are doing is going to
be judged through a racial lens. Nobody likes to talk about this but it
Every time there is a non-Malay in power, no matter
which coalition appoints them, the rakyat will be left to wonder what
kind of racial shenanigans are going on and how much pressure is the
"race and religion" brigade applying to this non-Malay person in power.
about objectively assessing an individual's actions because we now
know, thanks to Thomas' clear statements, that he and the other
high-ranking non-Malays were vilified not by their actions but rather
because they were non-Malays in a government which the Malay political
establishment always thought was their exclusive province.
this is really the insidious nature of these Malay "uber alles"-type
governments which I suppose even Harapan was afraid to confront from
within. As a non-Malay in a position of power, you will always be
You will always be expected to conform to the
Malay narratives of the state because, if you do not, you get people
like Umno/PAS and even from the government who appointed you, sabotaging
And it is really scary because, when it comes to issues of
national security, you want whoever is making decisions to do so based
on facts and evidence. Honestly, if a Malay AG had released a supposed
Islamic terrorist because they were unlikely to make a prosecution, what
do you think the reaction would have been?
How could anyone work
effectively but more importantly carry out his or her obligation without
fear or favour? This of course is not uncommon. In newsrooms, offices,
and wherever Malaysians gather, the spectre of race is always present.
Dropping charges against LTTE 12
fact that the state has always used racial and religious flashpoints to
further nativist narratives is evidence that the political and
bureaucratic leadership of this country has no intention of ever
reforming no matter who has the political power.
The fact that the current prime minister – according to Thomas – attempted to exert his influence in further demonising the LTTE 12, is indicative of how much trouble this country is in.
fact that Malay right-wing forces in this country could exert influence
or at least attempt to do so over the AG's office and harass then
finance minister Lim Guan Eng, and for Guan Eng to even think of
resigning to keep the peace, points to the eventual collapse of any form
of independent government.
issues you may have of how Guan Eng carried out his professional
responsibilities, the reality is that he, like Thomas, was never judged
by his actions but rather by his ethnicity.
when the state security apparatus was disappointed as reported in the
press, that Tommy Thomas had dropped the charges against the LTTE 12
because of lack of substance, were they disappointed that a non-Malay
did not have the conviction to carry out the prosecution? This is
certainly the narrative that was coming out of right-wing types when the
charges were dropped.
After all, the state security apparatus, as
exemplified by the inspector-general of police (IGP), has demonstrated a
willingness to coddle the religious kidnapper of M Indira Gandhi's child.
So why should it surprise anyone that the state security apparatus expects the AG to conform to right-wing narratives like the Perlis mufti who said of the LTTE 12:
leaders who openly state support for LTTE terrorists should be
prosecuted and arrested. How dangerous for the country if there are
political leaders involved in supporting terrorist groups and efforts to
Hence, if you are a non-Malay, could you
ever trust anything coming out of the state, even if it comes from the
mouth of a non-Malay? Indeed, Thomas made some bold moves but what would
have happened if he decided to prosecute the LTTE 12? What would have
been the reaction then?
I would argue that it would have made
right-wing nutters extremely happy if Thomas, as an “Indian”, charged
and prosecuted the LTTE 12. This way, he would provide a fig leaf of
credibility to the sham charges and would confirm to the Malay community
that a non-Malay was protecting their “rights”, which in this case
meant prosecuting political operatives and ordinary citizens for having
And that is the burden of race in this context - it makes you either an accomplice or an outsider.