MALAYSIA’S former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Friday said opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (Hope’s Pact) is committing to the process of releasing imprisoned de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim within one week if it assumes power in the next general elections.
The former premier, who was recently appointed Pakatan Harapan chairman, said the opposition pact would seek a royal pardon for Anwar who is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for his second sodomy conviction.
“We will wait for the law to take its course, not immediately because the prime minister who takes over will have a lot to do,” the statesman, who ruled the country for 22 years, told reporters after attending the pact’s presidential council meeting early Friday morning.
Dr Mahathir, who defected to the opposition after a fallout with the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party led by scandal-ridden Prime Minister Najib Razak, said this in response to questions on whether Anwar would become prime minister if the opposition secures a victory against the Barisan Nasional coalition in the polls due in 2018.
At the meeting, Pakatan Harapan – formerly known as Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Pact) – made key appointments including Dr Mahathir’s designation as chair while Anwar was named the opposition bloc’s de facto leader. Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, was appointed as the pact’s president.
Anwar is currently serving his prison sentence at the Sungai Buloh Prison centre, where he was sent upon his conviction two years ago.
He was jailed in February 2015 after his appeal against an earlier 2014 sodomy conviction was rejected by the High Court.
There have been several attempts to free him via the courts and through appealing for a royal pardon, all of which have proven unsuccessful.
Anwar has long claimed the charges against him were politically-motivated as the conviction disqualifies him from political office.
In June, New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) urged the Malaysian public to send letters addressed to the country’s head of state, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, to appeal for Anwar’s immediate release.
The foundation claimed the sodomy charges that led to Anwar’s conviction in 2014 were “trumped-up” and lacked DNA evidence. The charges, it said, also saw inconsistent testimony of his accuser and alleged tampering of evidence by a policeman in the case.
Dr Mahathir booted Anwar, his former deputy, from Cabinet in 1998 when he was embroiled in allegations of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Anwar’s dismissal and subsequent imprisonment spurned the creation of the “Reformasi” (reformation) movement and the formation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), or People’s Justice Party, the lynchpin of the federal Pakatan Harapan pact.
However, following his fallout with Najib over the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, Dr Mahathir set aside his long-time rivalry with Anwar in order to oust the Najib administration.
PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil told Asian Correspondent , the influential Dr Mahathir would be playing a key role in the opposition fold.
“As chairman, Tun Dr Mahathir will coordinate and chair the Presidential Council meetings to maximize our efforts to win GE14 (the 14th General Elections),” he said.
Mahathir, who turned 92 last week, was also tipped to head the government again if the opposition alliance wins, but Pakatan Harapan is yet to confirm whether Mahathir or Anwar would be prime minister.
“PM nominee will be announced at a later date,” Fahmi said.