Last edited: November 07, 2004

Mahathir Undaunted by an Anwar Comeback

The Manila Times (AFP), October 6, 2004

FORMER Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday played down the chances of a political comeback by his ex-pro­tégé-turned rival Anwar Ibrahim, who was freed last month after six years in jail on corruption charges.

Speaking before a business conference in Manila, Mahathir said that Anwar’s acquittal on appeal against a sodomy conviction was merely on a technicality and the courts had not specifically cleared him of charges of homosexuality—a crime in mainly Muslim Malaysia.

“The acquittal was on very flimsy ground. We are not worried by him,” Mahathir said, adding that the police who handled the case apparently made a mistake on the date that the supposed crime was committed.

“The acquittal does not mean he did not commit this.”

He said that under Malaysian law, Anwar would not be allowed to stand for any elective or party post for five years.

“He would have the support outside the country, but outside the country, they are not our constituents,” the former Malaysian premier said.

Anwar had already been barred from rejoining the all-powerful United Malays National Organization (UMNO) at a party congress last month.

Anwar was largely expected to become Malaysia’s prime minister until he had a falling out with Mahathir in 1998. He was replaced by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who this year succeeded Mahathir as prime minister.

Malaysia’s Federal Court last month overturned Anwar’s conviction and nine-year sentence for sodomy. But the same court rejected an appeal to further review his corruption conviction, which accused him of abusing power to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct.

The decision meant any political comeback would have to be delayed until 2008 under regulations governing convicted criminals.

In an interview with AFP last month in Munich where he was seeking medical treatment for spinal problems, Anwar said he has made no commitment to join any political party but is likely to play a role in a multiparty alliance, probably in opposition.

He said he wanted to reform the Malaysian government from what he called corruption and bigotry of its past.

Anwar said he wanted to improve the country’s democracy, encourage a more independent judiciary and make more positive economic changes that would generate faster growth and inject new political confidence.

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