KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 – Zeinab Badawi’s interview with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme yesterday has set tongues wagging again on how the two-time prime minister really feels about his former number two, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Firstly, there was the issue of an apology over what had taken place 20 years ago, when Mahathir, as prime minister and Umno president, sacked Anwar from both the cabinet and the party, over allegations of being a homosexual and abuse of power.
Anwar had openly said in interviews following his release from jail after receiving a royal pardon last May, that Mahathir had apologised to him.
Zeinab quoted Anwar for saying; “Mahathir has proven his tenacity, accepted past limitations, apologised and sacrificed his time and energy to raise the dignity of the people and the country.”
However, Mahathir told the BBC that he had never apologised for whatever happened between 1998 and 1999, which saw Anwar eventually being jailed for what the former deputy prime minister had always said were politically-motivated charges. Mahathir reminded that it was the courts and not himself that sentenced Anwar to jail.
Anwar: I never asked for apology
In response, Anwar has now changed his story, and turned the tables on the media instead, claiming that he had never asked for an apology from Mahathir, The Star reported.
“I have never asked him to apologise. I have always been firm that I am satisfied with his demeanour and readiness to work with me. Forget the past and move on. It is you who are demanding forgiveness, or the BBC.
“I have said that I have forgiven him, and even former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on a personal level.
“But I think that with Mahathir, it need not be equated, because he is committed to the reform agenda and has embraced me as a partner,” Anwar was quoted as saying by the daily.
Mahathir’s ‘gay prime minister’ comment
The ability to reconcile past differences for political expediency seems to come through in other quotes attributed to Mahathir too.
When Zeinab reminded Mahathir about his comments following Anwar being released in 2004, criticising his former deputy, saying things like “imagine having a gay prime minister”, the Pakatan Harapan chairman simply brushed it off.
“That’s what I said at the time, but it became necessary for me to work with him to oust Najib as prime minister. So both of us decided to forget the past to focus on this issue.”
Incidentally, Anwar had sued Mahathir in January 2006 for defamation over the latter’s “gay slur” and for refusing to apologise for calling him a homosexual.
Now it is apparent that there has indeed been no apology from Mahathir over any thing in the past, be it the sacking of Anwar or the “gay slur”.
Instead, the stage is set for him to hand over the reins of power to Anwar, regardless of how he may have felt about his former deputy in the past, and may still do.
Conversation with the King
Another aspect to this latest revelation, with Anwar indirectly admitting that Mahathir never really apologised to him, is on comments the PKR president had made pertaining to a conversation he claimed to have had with the Yang diPertuan Agong.
He told a room full of his supporters recently that the Agong said: “I pardoned you not because of the legal allocation under my power alone, but because I am confident you are innocent, Anwar, and there was travesty or miscarriage of justice. I had to do my duty as a King, to stop this injustice towards you since 1998 till 2018.”
According to Anwar, his immediate response to the Agong was: “Your Majesty, this is a very serious statement from you. You are now saying that the judiciary, attorney general’s prosecution, investigation, was all compromised, to fix me up.”
Then he claimed that the Agong said: “Yes, I’m telling you the truth.”
Some observers had pointed out that dragging the King into his denials of any sexual misconduct and of allegations of politically-motivated charges spanning 20 years was a serious issue.
The King was also urged to call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the matter, if indeed he felt there was a serious miscarriage of justice as claimed by Anwar.