Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had offered Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim a senatorship on May 13, three days before the latter received full pardon and release over his sodomy conviction. The senatorship would have paved the way for Anwar to join the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution revealed that Dr Mahathir had made the offer when he visited Anwar at the hospital.
In an interview with a local media, Saifuddin said Mahathir made the suggestion on May 13, three days before Anwar received his full pardon and release over his sodomy conviction. “When (Mahathir) came to visit Anwar, I was at the ward with them. Mahathir invited Anwar to become a member of the administration and wanted to appoint him as a senator. “In a polite manner, Anwar said since Wan Azizah is the deputy prime minister, it’s better for him not to be part of the administration,” he said. “Meaning, the prime minister definitely wanted to include Anwar and there are two ways to do this, either by appointing Anwar a senator, or if he contests in a parliamentary seat (by-election),” he said. “Anwar just thanked the prime minister and said to him, the stage is yours, you should be the one who runs the show.”
This shows Anwar had full confidence and support for Mahathir, said the Kulim Bandar Baharu MP. When Mahathir asked about Anwar’s plan, the latter said he would travel overseas to give talks and tour around the country to thank the voters for supporting Pakatan Harapan, said Saifuddin. Saifuddin, who is also the domestic trade and consumerism minister, said Anwar had stressed that he would return to politics as a Dewan Rakyat member but was reluctant to do it via a by-election at the Pandan seat won by his wife, Dr Wan Azizah. Senators hold the same status as an MP and have commonly been used by BN as a back door to take on a ministerial post. Anwar became a free man on May 16 this year after serving 39 months in jail over a sodomy conviction.
While he had said that he would not seek an immediate return to politics, the PKR de facto leader was also reported as saying that he would be back in Parliament within months and might speed up the process. Saifuddin said PKR has not set a timeline for Anwar’s return to politics, and there was no need to do so. “He had been with the government since the 1980s, he has vast experience. “As much as we did not set a timeline for Dr Mahathir (to step down as the prime minister), we did not set a timeline for Anwar. He can determine himself, whether he wants to have it via a by-election or otherwise, he will decide himself,” he said. “He can determine himself, whether he wants to have it via a by-election or otherswise, he will decide himself,” said the domestic trade and consumerism minister.
“All the PKR parliamentarians have been requested by our PRK de facto leader Anwar and the party president Wan Azizah to support Tun Dr Mahathir and the government, so they can administrate confidently,” he said. Anwar is currently in Turkey undergoing a shoulder operation and recuperating from a spinal operation. Saifuddin also denied allegations that PKR’s internal factions and lobbyists were among the causes for the almost 10-week delay in Tun Dr Mahathir’s finalised 25-members cabinet to be all sworn in, after Pakatan Harapan won the May 9 general election. Tun Dr Mahathir had on May 12 appointed the first three members of his Cabinet while the second batch of ministers was named on May 18. The third batch of 13 ministers and all the deputy ministers were sworn in only on July 2. “It is not true and unfair (to make such an accusation).
The prime minister had asked every party to submit their names to the PH presidential council meeting and urged them to have trust in him, as this is the prerogative of the prime minister,” he said. PKR had submitted 10 names on May 14. “There isn’t any lobbying from PKR, (Not from) Anwar, Wan Azizah or myself, none. We left it to Tun Dr Mahathir,” he said. Some of the names submitted by PKR were not selected, he said. “It was the same for DAP and Amanah,” he said, but declined to divulge those in PKR who had been rejected. However, Saifuddin admitted party deputy president Azmin Ali, who was then Selangor menteri besar, was not in the list of PKR’s ministerial candidates. “PKR was very clear that a Menteri Besar cannot become a minister. Of course, PKR is not stupid, not knowing what is stated in the federal constitution,” he said.
He said it was Tun Dr Mahathir who appointed Azmin to the post of minister for economic affairs. PKR has six cabinet members out of 28 and at first glance, they are mostly aligned with Azmin. Brushing off allegations that the party is split into two factions – Azmin’s and vice-president Rafizi Ramli’s – Saifuddin said, “My view is that they are all part of the PKR team.”
Meanwhile in another interview, former minister Rafidah Aziz has cautioned that politicising race and religion will halt the country’s progress. Speaking at a business forum in Singapore, she was asked what would hold Malaysia back from realising its full potential. “Politicising things that shouldn’t be politicised, because that will cause a lot of divisiveness, friction and uneasiness. “For example, politicising education, politicising race – there is really no place for that. Politicising religion… no place whatsoever. “So, we should be colour-blind to race, religion, and gender, and get on with governance. Governing does not include all these other factors,” she was quoted as saying in Singapore news portal Today Online. The Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) recently resurfaced in the news after Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki objected to how Pakatan Harapan intends to honour its election promise to recognise it for entry into public tertiary institutions.
PAS has also objected to the appointment of non-Muslims to key legal positions in the country, claiming this had caused “restlessness” among Muslims, and questioned if these appointees would be able to defend Islam in legal matters. The Islamist party was commenting on the appointments of Tommy Thomas as the attorney-general, senior judge Richard Malanjum as the chief justice and Warisan’s Batu Sapi MP Liew Vui Keong as the de facto law minister. On another matter, Rafidah brushed off concerns over Malaysia-Singapore ties under Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Asked for her take on the current state of bilateral affairs following Mahathir’s recent remarks about the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) and the “ridiculous” low price Malaysia sells water to Singapore, she said media reports of such remarks should be taken lightly.
“Relationships are built over many decades. Just one wrong interaction does not reflect the kind of relationship we have built up over the years. What you read in the media is not necessarily what transpires. I must be the nastiest person around if you just judge by this,” she was quoted as saying. Singapore had previously said it had not received Putrajaya’s official stance on the HSR, to which Mahathir retorted that the island state “should know what is it we (Malaysia) want to do”. In response to the prime minister’s intention to raise water prices, Singapore had emphasised that the 1962 Water Agreement, which stipulates water be sold at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons, must be honoured. Rafidah is a close ally of Mahathir’s and came out of her retirement from politics to support Harapan during the 14th general election.
She had been part of Mahathir’s cabinet as international trade and industry minister for the most part of his first tenure as premier.