Free pardon or full pardon? AG’s letter fuels new debate over Anwar’s eligibility

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan says there are two types of pardons.

PETALING JAYA: A letter by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to confirm Anwar Ibrahim’s eligibility to run as a candidate in the Port Dickson by-election has failed to assuage concerns over the specific details of the royal pardon the PKR leader was granted last May.

On the contrary, a statement by a PAS lawyer two days ago has been at the heart of a renewed debate on Anwar’s candidacy, threatening to push the matter further into a dispute over ambiguity in the constitution.

Takiyuddin Hassan, the PAS secretary-general, had said that the “full pardon” to Anwar, as stated by Thomas in his letter to lawyer Siti Zabedah Kasim, was still not enough to lift a five-year ban on Anwar from returning to active politics.

On May 16, Anwar, who was sentenced to five years’ jail over a charge of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, was granted a royal pardon by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

It not only allowed Anwar to be released earlier, but also cleared the path for him to return to Parliament, which is crucial if Pakatan Harapan is to implement an agreement among party leaders to make him the prime minister after Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The contents of the royal letter which granted Anwar the pardon was however disputed by Siti Kasim, who wanted to know specific conditions of the pardon.

A reply from Thomas to her stated that Anwar was eligibile to contest in the elections.

“The Pardons Board advised that ‘pengampunan penuh’ be considered for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. His Majesty, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, granted ‘pengampunan penuh’ (full pardon) to Datuk Seri Anwar.

“Accordingly, by virtue of Article 48(1)(e) of the Federal Constitution, Datuk Seri Anwar is not disqualified from standing as a candidate for the forthcoming by-election for the Port Dickson constituency,” Thomas said in his letter.

Full pardon or free pardon

Takiyuddin said Thomas’ explanation that Anwar was given a “full pardon” only allowed him early release.

He said Anwar still needed a “free pardon” in order to make him eligible to contest for a political post.

“The issue here is that Anwar has not been granted a free pardon but only allowed and given immediate release with effect from May 16, 2018 after getting the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V on the advice of the Federal Territories Pardons Board,” said Takiyuddin.

Prominent blogger Syed Akbar Ali said the explanation by Takiyuddin showed that Anwar’s pardon had yet to fulfil Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, adding that Thomas had been “too hasty” in his reply to Siti Kasim.

“The AG should have checked all relevant articles of the Federal Constitution including Article 48 and only then replied to Siti Kasim’s letter,” said Syed Akbar, adding that Thomas should also not issue any more comment on the matter pending a legal challenge against Anwar’s candidacy.

“A court case has been filed in the High Court (by that girl) to declare Anwar as not qualified to run for the PD Parliamentary seat,” he said, referring to voter Noraziah Mohd Shariff’s move seeking a declaration that Anwar is not eligible to contest in the Port Dickson by-election.

“The AG discussing this matter outside the court therefore becomes sub judice. The AG will be hard put to discuss a case which is already before the courts,” Syed Akbar added.

Noraziah among others questioned the Pardons Board, saying it was not formed in accordance with Article 42 (5) of the constitution.

In her affidavit, she said although Anwar received a pardon, it did not remove his disqualification to contest in an election.

She also said that the Pardons Board was not fully constituted when it reached its decision in the aftermath of the May 9 polls, as former AG Mohamed Apandi Ali as well as the federal territories minister were not present.

When contacted, Takiyuddin said the court must ultimately make a decision on the issue.

“Court has to decide on this question of law. A voter has filed originating summons in the Kuala Lumpur High Court supported by a certificate of urgency,” he said, referring to Noraziah’s challenge.