Last edited: September 06, 2004

Was There a Deal?

The Straits Times, September 4, 2004

By Leslie Lau

  • Why did Anwar’s wife meet PM Abdullah a few months ago?

  • Did Anwar agree to leave country quietly and not threaten Umno or PM?

  • Did government offer Anwar the post of special envoy to the OIC?

  • Why did Khairy Jamaluddin, powerful son-in-law of PM Abdullah, visit Anwar hours after his release?

KUALA LUMPUR—For some Malaysians, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s release was just too good to be true.

He had barely left prison when the hunt began for the ‘real story’ behind his release.

Coffeeshop talk hinted of a ‘deal’ between the former deputy premier and Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Denials did not dampen the sceptics who asked: Was there a deal? Was there ‘pressure’ from the United States? Or did the Prime Minister want ‘closure’ on the whole ugly episode, and therefore ordered the judges to release Datuk Seri Anwar?

New meaning was attached to a meeting that Datuk Seri Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Ismail had with the Premier a few months ago.

Her version of the meeting: ‘I was appealing for sympathy from the Prime Minister to allow Anwar to be warded in the hospital for his medical problems instead of travelling back and forth from jail. That was all.

‘His release was because of a court decision. We do not owe anyone anything. There was no negotiation.’

Her other remarks to the media that she had been told that her husband would be released but had not dared believe it were read to mean that his freedom was not that unexpected.

Even Attorney-General Gani Patail stepped in to dispel talks of a deal yesterday.

‘I can assure you of that. At the same time I am glad, not because of the outcome but that the long procedure is finally over,’ he said.

That did not silence the whispers. Many speculated on Datuk Seri Anwar’s part of the ‘bargain’.

He would leave the country quietly and not threaten the ruling party Umno or the Prime Minister politically, said one version.

Another had it that he was offered the post of special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

This was supposedly because of his Islamic credentials, although he has no religious qualifications.

Each news development was snapped up as fodder and more questions were raised.

Why did Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, the powerful son-in-law of the Prime Minister, visit Datuk Seri Anwar on Thursday night, hours after his release?

Why did Ms Saleha Ali, the sister-in-law of former premier Mahathir Mohamad, the man who sacked his deputy, visit him as well?

Why is the Saudi Arabian government providing the former prisoner a private jet to ferry him to Munich for medical treatment? How is it that it could be made available on such short notice?

Explanations from Datuk Seri Anwar and his aides could not stem the tide of rumours and speculation.

‘This is outside politics, this is family. She is like a mother to me,’ Datuk Seri Anwar told Reuters of Ms Saleha’s visit.

Of Mr Khairy’s visit, he said: ‘He came just to see what else can be done. It was a very personal family visit ... Prime Minister Abdullah was more concerned about the medical condition.

‘There was no other issue being discussed except the fact that I need the passport quickly.’

As for the jet offer, his aides said that Saudi Arabia made it because of personal relationships struck up when he was in government.

A senior Umno leader said the disbelief partly had roots in the fact that the court decision was unanticipated and many Malaysians harboured doubts about the independence of the judiciary.

He told The Straits Times: ‘The court decision surprised many people. People cannot seem to believe that the country has changed under Abdullah Badawi, that there was no interference.’

As one incredulous Anwar supporter told The Straits Times: ‘I cannot believe there was no deal. Why would the government let him go?’

After all, Datuk Seri Anwar himself had said that if Tun Dr Mahathir was still in power, he would not have been allowed to go free.

The conspiracy theorists seem not to have considered the thrust of the Federal Court’s decision to reverse his conviction for sodomy.

The prosecution, the judges said, had not proved the charges beyond reasonable doubt.

Datuk Seri Anwar said the Premier should be given some credit for this.


‘He did not interfere.’

[Home] [World] [Malaysia]