GEORGE TOWN: The reconciliation between former archenemies Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim is genuine and a move forward, said PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
Saifuddin said it was not a zero-sum game, and that both men have made sacrifices and were willing to forgive, forget and move forward.
“It was not an easy decision for Anwar. I visited him on the day of the Pakatan Harapan convention to get his advice on moving forward.
“I’m happy to share with you that there is no doubt Anwar is prepared to accept Mahathir.
“For Anwar, the future of Malaysia is most important.
“With that I believe we can go into the elections, to be called in less than two or three months,” he said in his opening remarks at a get-together with the media at Gayo Korea House last night.
Pakatan Harapan (PH) had on Sunday confirmed Mahathir as its prime ministerial candidate in the 14th general election.
It also named PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as its candidate for deputy prime minister.
When asked on his level of confidence in supporting Mahathir, Saifuddin said in the past, whenever he went on stage to give a ceramah, he would bash Mahathir.
Saifuddin said ever since PPBM became a part of PH and Mahathir was picked as PH chairman and PM candidate, he had the opportunity to join the veteran politician at various forums, dialogues, seminars and visits to rural areas.
He noted that Mahathir still commanded strong support in rural areas and in Felda settlements — something Anwar could only dream of.
“All 55 Felda seats are held by Barisan Nasional (BN). So Anwar, when he led the then Pakatan Rakyat, would be pelted with stones and wood when he was able to get into these rural areas. He was chased out.
“This time (with Mahathir), this did not happen. We went to eight Felda settlements in Kedah. That’s the truth. You cannot lie.”
Saifuddin noted that in rural areas, other PH leaders like Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli and even himself would not be able to have the kind of impact Mahathir has.
On the other hand, if Mahathir is in town, Saifuddin said villagers would come out to hear Mahathir’s speech.
This, he pointed out, was the context of functional leadership and this was what Mahathir had to offer.
”We need a reconciliation between these two leaders. As I said, it’s not a zero-sum game.
“Anwar is about reform agenda. Mahathir wants to save Malaysia.
“If we combine these two elements, I believe these two can create a new impact to advance the reform movement.”
The two leaders, Saifuddin said, are well advanced in their years and are interested in paving the way for the next generation.
“Mahathir has said he is sorry. Anwar said he is ready to forgive, that he wants to look forward.
“I believe that these two can give us the much-needed boost in the next election.”
Saifuddin said what was important now was for PH to retain the support of non-Malays and then subsequently penetrate the rural areas, especially the Felda settlements and villages.
“This is what we are doing as PH leaders. If we are too comfortable with the status quo and we keep doing the same things again and again, hoping for a better result, that is not good.
“We need to get out of the status quo and try something new.”
In 1998, Newsweek magazine had named Anwar “Asian of the Year”. However, in that year, matters between Anwar and Mahathir came to a head around the time of the Umno general assembly.
Umno Youth, headed by Anwar’s associate and now Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, gave notice that it would initiate a debate on “cronyism and nepotism”.
At the general assembly, a book, “50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM” (50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Become Prime Minister) was circulated.
It contained graphic allegations of homosexuality as well as accusations of corruption against Anwar.
The book was written by Khalid Jafri, an ex-editor of government-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia and former editor-in-chief of a failed magazine, Harian National.
Anwar obtained a court injunction to prevent further distribution of the book and filed a suit against the author for defamation. Anwar won RM4.5 million in damages against Khalid.
The author of the book was charged with malicious publishing of false news and police were instructed to investigate the veracity of the claims.
In what the Sydney Morning Herald termed a “blatantly political fix-up”, Anwar was arrested on Sept 20, 1998.
He was subsequently charged with corruption for allegedly interfering in police investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.