Was There a Deal?
Straits Times, September 4, 2004
By Leslie Lau
Why did Anwar’s wife meet PM Abdullah a few
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
‘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
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
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
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.’
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