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Posted at: May 17, 2018, 1:35 AM; last updated: May 17, 2018, 1:35 AM (IST)

Anwar walks free after royal pardon

Anwar walks free after royal pardon
Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim kisses his wife during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. Reuters

Kuala Lumpur, May 16

Reformist icon Anwar Ibrahim celebrated a “new dawn” for Malaysia after he was given a royal pardon and freed from custody today, transforming a political prisoner into a prime minister-in-waiting following his alliance’s stunning election victory.

Anwar, 70, was convicted of sodomy in 2015 in a case he said was aimed at crushing his alliance, which was making gains against Malaysia’s long ruling coalition government. His sentence was set to end June 8 but last week’s unexpected election win, which ended the National Front’s 60-year rule, led to his swift release.

“Now there is a new dawn for Malaysia,” he told a news conference at his house. Anwar said he was grateful to Malaysians “regardless of race and religion, who stood by the principles of democracy and freedom.” The election result was a demand for change and it’s the new government’s responsibility to ensure that mandate is honoured, he said.

Earlier, Anwar was thronged by scores of supporters and reporters after he walked free from a hospital, where he was recovering from shoulder surgery, and whisked away to an audience with Malaysia’s king. The royal palace said in a statement that the monarch had given Anwar a full pardon following advice from the Pardons Board.

Analysts say his release could cause tensions in the new government led by Mahathir Mohamad, who after leading the four-party alliance in the election campaign has become the world’s oldest leader at 92. Mahathir is the chairman of the alliance and Anwar is its de-facto leader. Anwar sought to allay those concerns, saying he was not in a hurry to take over from Mahathir. Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is currently the deputy premier.

Anwar, who needs to contest a by-election to become a Member of Parliament, said he doesn’t want any Cabinet posts yet as he plans to spend time with his family and travel abroad for speaking engagements. He reiterated his full support for Mahathir’s leadership and said their political feud has long been buried.

“I have forgiven him. He has proven his mettle. He made his sacrifices and was maligned in the media. I tell you, it is like deja vu,” Anwar said. “He has struggled and worked indefatigably hard. He has now supported the reform agenda. He facilitated my release. Why should I harbour any malice toward him?”

His party has disputed Mahathir’s appointment of three top Cabinet posts, but Anwar said it was only a difference over the consultation process, adding it was Mahathir’s prerogative as premier to form the Cabinet. — AP

His bond with Mahathir will set political course 

  • The question for Malaysia now is how Anwar Ibrahim will get along with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, his ally-turned-foe-turned-ally, and what role he will play in the new government in the near future
  • Anwar was Mahathir’s deputy in the 1990s but fell out with his mentor during the Asian financial crisis. He was sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi movement, challenging Mahathir’s government. He was arrested and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption
  • Anwar said he would like to take time off with his family and did not intend to join the cabinet any time soon. He said he would support the government led by Mahathir and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife

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