Pardon is first big success of the nations newly elected governing alliance, Pakatan Harapan, led by 92 -year-old Mahathir Mohamad
Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, jailed for sodomy 3 years ago, has strolled free from prison after receiving a royal pardon.
Anwar’s release is the first big success of the newly elected regulate alliance, Pakatan Harapan, led by 92 -year-old Mahathir Mohamad, which was swept into power after a shock election victory last week.
At 11.30 am on Wednesday, a frail but jubilant Anwar emerged from Cheras rehabilitation hospital in Kuala Lumpur, where he has recently been serving his sentence after an operation on his shoulder. He waved to the collected crowd before getting into a vehicle to go to the National Palace, where he met the monarch for an hour to formalise his pardon.
” Today is a new beginning. It is a new chapter in our country ,” he said.
Few in Malaysia have been persecuted for their political views and popularity like Anwar, a man with three prison sentences and 11 years in jail to his name. The pardon was filed based on the results of a” miscarriage of justice”, thus clearing his name entirely.
It was his first taste of liberty since 2015, following a prison sentence widely perceived as politically motivated; a manoeuvre by former prime minister Najib Razak to get rid of a feared political contender who had operated against him- and won the popular vote- in the 2013 general election.
Speaking at a press conference at his home following his release, Anwar said he bore no personal malice towards either former prime minister Najib or Mahathir, who was responsible for his first prison sentence in 1999.
” I have forgiven him ,” told Anwar when asked about Najib.” But the issue of injustice towards the people, crimes committed against the person or persons, endemic corruption that has become a culture in this country, that he has to answer for .”
Ensuring the full royal pardon of Anwar was a key part of the agreement between Mahathir and the opponent when it was decided in January he would swap sides and run as their leader in the election, unified by a joint desire to depose Najib. Mahathir’s previous 22 -year reign as prime minister was as head of the ruling party Umno.
A beaming Anwar, sitting next to his wife, Dr Wan Azizah- who is now deputy prime minister- stressed he was no hurry-up to return to politics, and would be spending some time with his family and speaking at Harvard, Stanford and Georgetown universities. Under the agreement with the opponent, Mahathir will serve as prime minister for two years, before handing power, ultimately, to Anwar.
” I don’t need to serve in the cabinet for now ,” told Anwar.” I have informed Dr Mahathir it is very kind to offer but I have said no, it is better that you and Azizah and the team continue and allow me to take some time with the family … I believe I need that time, that space .”
The release also marks the next phase in Mahathir and Anwar’s turbulent relationship, which has been a decisive part of Malaysian politics for over three decades.
Anwar was adamant that he and Mahathir had interred the hatchet, and said he trusted him to implement the opponent reform agenda.
” One of the very well-known world statesmen was joking with me:’ Anwar, are you sure, “d you tell me” the truth. Appear at me and tell me say that you’ve forgiven him[ Mahathir ]?’,” recounted Anwar.
” I looked at him and I told:’ My interest now is the wealth of the nation. I have forgiven him. He has proven his mettle, he has built sacrifices … he has even facilitated my release. Why should I have any malice towards him ?”
Anwar began his career in politics as Mahathir’s protege in the early 1980 s- having already spend almost two years in jail for political protest- and quickly rose through the ranks to become deputy prime minister in 1993.
His first downfall came in 1998, when he and Mahathir fell out over alleged cronyism and economic crisis, and Mahathir began to fear Anwar’s vast popularity. Anwar was ousted from office and then find himself charged with sodomy and corruption.
The resulting court case, the longest in Malaysian history, was an exercise in mortification for Anwar, who was accused of sodomy with his speechwriter and wife’s chauffeur.
” I cannot accept a man who is a sodomist to become the leader of this country ,” told Mahathir at the time. Even though the evidence was flimsy and much of it coerced, Anwar was found guilty in 1999 of corruption and in 2000 of sodomy, landing him with a cumulative 15 -year prison sentence.
He was let out in 2004, having expended six years in solitary confinement, and was let back into politics in 2008, where reference is operated as opposition leader in the election. But his reappearance on the political scene was not without ramifications. In 2010, he was put on trial again for sodomy, in hearings that went on for two years. He was exonerated, then ran again as opposition leader in the 2013 elections, gaining more of the votes, but still losing to Najib.
But a year after Najib won the election, Anwar’s acquittal was overruled and he was sentenced to five years in jail for sodomy, where he has remained since.
Throughout his ordeal, Anwar has remained a uniting figure for the opposition, and his release will be crucial for the Pakatan Harapan alliance, who are already grappling with tension among their divided ranks of Anwar’s PKR party, Mahathir’s party Bersatu, the DAP and Amanah.
His release was greeted with exultation nationwide. Among the crowds at the hospital was Anwar’s old university friend, 78 -year-old Azidin Mahmud, who travelled 300 miles to assure the release.” He has suffered too long but he really is a champion of justice ,” told Azidin.
” I watched him first speaking at the University of Malaysia Speaker’s Corner in 1968. Then we travelled together around all Malaysia, fighting for the freedom of the poor man. I am very very happy to see my friend ultimately released today. Long live Anwar Ibrahim .”
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