24 September 2018

'Anwar turned down Dr M's offer to become senator'

'Anwar turned down Dr M's offer to become senator'
KUALA LUMPUR: 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 a polite manner, Anwar said since Wan Azizah (Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail) is the deputy prime minister, it's better for him not to be part of the administration," Saifuddin said in a Malaysiakini interview.

Saifuddin, who is also the domestic trade and consumerism minister, said this meant that Dr Mahathir had wanted to include Anwar in the administration but he (Anwar) thanked the prime minister and said to him, “the stage is yours, you should be the one who runs the show."

This, according to Saifuddin, also reflected Anwar’s full confidence and support for Dr Mahathir.

Saifuddin 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.

Anwar became a free May 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.

Saifuddin also denied allegations that PKR's internal factions and lobbyists were among the causes for the almost 10-week delay in Dr Mahathir's finalised 25-members cabinet to be all sworn in, after Harapan won the May 9 general election.

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 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 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."


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