PETALING JAYA: In an attempt to pacify opposition supporters who have reservations about PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s presence in Pakatan Harapan (PH), Anwar Ibrahim has issued an appeal for the former prime minister to be allowed space to help expand the opposition’s reach among the masses.
The de facto leader of PH and PKR said Mahathir and PPBM are now part of the coalition’s framework to broaden its support base and network.
“I personally welcome Tun (Dr Mahathir) to pursue the struggle with us. The personal tribulations and hurt that have been felt (before) are small compared to the interests of the people and the future of the country,” he said.
“He now has to fight under different circumstances and under pressure. He has reacted swiftly and bravely. He should be given the space to help expand the network of the people’s movement,” Anwar said in a statement today.
He said the new PH leadership line-up, which also features Mahathir as chairman and PKR’s Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as president, cannot be likened to that of Barisan Nasional (BN).
“PH is a democratic entity headed by a team of party leaders,” he said.
Anwar said there was concern that Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, may depart from the direction agreed upon in PH.
He said such a scenario would not be possible under the existing structure of the coalition.
“The common policy that has been agreed upon has been revealed to the public in a transparent manner. It is an agenda for the people to be carried out by PH,” he said.
There has been apprehension over Mahathir’s recent inclusion in the opposition ranks after he left Umno to form PPBM in 2015.
Mahathir had during his tenure as prime minister controversially fired Anwar from the government where he was deputy prime minister in September 1998, triggering the “reformasi” (reformation) movement led by Anwar.
Anwar was also sentenced to six years in prison for corruption on April 14, 1999, and, nine years in prison for sodomy on August 8, 2000.
Human rights activists and the opposition had heavily criticised the sentences, which were to be served consecutively, as being politically influenced by the Mahathir government.
The Federal Court later overturned the sodomy conviction in September 2004 after Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over as prime minister the year before.
In April 2009, Abdullah was succeeded by Najib Razak who has remained in power till today.
Anwar is now serving a new five-year jail term after losing his appeal at the Federal Court on Feb 10, 2015, to set aside his conviction on a charge of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008.
Earlier this month, Saari Sungib resigned as chairman of the Otai Reformasi 1998 activist group which was formed during the height of the “reformasi” campaign in the late 1990s, after some of its members protested against the appointment of Mahathir as chairman of PH.
Also, Malaysiakini reported that Otai Reformasi secretary Abdul Razak Ismail would be contesting in the next general election under Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s banner due to his disagreement with Mahathir leading the opposition coalition.
Anwar said the activists and NGO members had the right to “monitor” PH’s performance, while admonishing and presenting suggestions.
“I am still convinced in our role to continue supporting change in the lead up to the 14th general election (GE14). The electoral system has been crippled and spoilt, and needs to be straightened.
“There is awareness and awakening among the people who are restless due to livelihood pressures and spread of corruption, which cannot be covered up except by cheating in the election.
He said the attempt by the government, particularly the attorney-general, to allegedly protect the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal did not prevent seven other countries from pursuing investigations on the issue.
“PH and our colleagues in the people’s movement need to rise up as a powerful force to save the people and our beloved Malaysia,” he said.