Dr Mahathir: Action taken against Anwar would not be according to law
However, due to political considerations, he would not sack the then Deputy Prime Minister cum Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim, said former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said if could turn back time 20 years ago and given the chance to decide again, he would not sack former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Asked about the mistakes during his 22-year tenure as Prime Minister, he said he should not have taken action against Anwar according to law.
Dr Mahathir sacked Anwar as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in September 1998. The Umno supreme council later also revoked Anwar’s membership in Umno, one of the parties under the ruling coalition. Anwar, convicted on charges of abuse of power and sodomy, was sentenced to six years’ jail and nine years’ jail respectively. However, Federal Court overturned the sodomy conviction in 2004. He was released from jail after winning the appeal.
Dr Mahathir, who has since left Umno and the chairman for Pakatan Harapan which is the opposition coalition now, was asked about decisions which he had made wrongly during his 22 year tenure as Prime Minister. He was asked in an interview with Sin Chew Daily at his Putrajaya office. Dr Mahathir said he `should not have followed the law` when handling Anwar’s case.
“I think I should not take action against Anwar. Follow the law completely is a wrong decision.”
“Judging from political angle, I should not have done that. When I become the Prime Minister, I promised myself not to do anything that people would hate me.”
`Dark eye` episode leads to reformasi movement.
Dr Mahathir said he lost close to 300,000 of Malay votes in 1999 General Election. The bruise on Anwar’s left eye sparked off Reformasi movement among the Malays to oppose Dr Mahathir.
“Under such circumstances I have no other option. I could only make a decision for people to hate me. Now only I realise that maybe I should have put justice aside, not to do that based on political reasons.
“Many people do not care about proper legal procedure. They are only looking at political interest. I could have gained from those political interests.”
“In fact I could have use Internal Security Act to detain him. But he was convicted and sentenced to jail. The entire process took nine months. If I am a dictator, I could have sent him to jail directly.”
“I was very unhappy with the police. I asked why was he not on trial? Initially they did not tell me. Then later they say he was given `black eye`. But I insisted he has to go to court.”
Dr Mahathir said when police presented him the evidence, he had no other option. He recalled he only sacked Anwar’s position as Deputy Prime Minister and minister. The Umno supreme council made a collective decision to sack Anwar as Umno deputy president.
Umno supreme council decided to sack Anwar
“For this matter we called for supreme council meeting which lasted till 4am. Everyone spoke and they were unanimous. They did not want him as deputy president of Umno nor allow him to remain in the party. It was a decision made by the Umno supreme council and not my decision. I did not sack him in this way.”
“I complied with proper procedure by bringing the matter to discuss in the supreme council. All supreme council members turned up, almost 40 people. Anwar was present. I spoke first and then Anwar spoke. Of course he had his points. Each one was given a chance to speak twice. When it was second round, I wanted Anwar to speak again but he refused. I think he walked out then. The meeting continued. They made a final decision not to remain him in the party. It was a decision made by the majority.”
He would consult others and deny himself a dictator
He stressed that many people condemned him as a dictator. He would consult others for opinion. When former Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam resigned, he also called for Umno supreme council meeting.
“Of course I did not hope for Musa Hitam to return. But the supreme council decided to send a representative to convince Musa to return as Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy president of Umno. Later they only managed to let him return in his capacity as deputy president of Umno. This does not look like a dictator. A dictator can make a decision without meeting anyone.”
Dr Mahathir joked that now he is in the opposition, the opposition is also surprised that everyone can speak in the meeting chaired by him.
“In fact they speak at length. Each time the meeting exceeds by two hours of scheduled time. Everyone has something to say and once someone said I would drag the popularity of Pakatan Harapan down. This is because they say I attract some people but there are also those who hate me.”
What else did Dr Mahathir say….
• He has never instructed Chinese primary school to be shut down but suggested vision schools for pupils of all races to attend class under the same roof.
• Even if Najib were to step down, he would not return to Umno, or form a joint government with Umno without Najib.
• Tun Dr Mahathir is grateful that Wan Azizah and Nurul Izzah are generous as Anwar advised them to temporarily forget about the past.
• Tun Dr Mahathir did not forget about the `rescue` made by Chinese during 1999 General Elections. Chinese also did not forget Tun Dr Mahathir in resolving financial crisis.
• Umno members would support Pakatan Harapan secretly to oppose Najib in the party.
• Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s position is in favour of Pakatan Harapan to win additional 20 to 30 Malay seats compared to May 5, 2013 election to capture Putrajaya
• Education system in Malaysia used to be politicised by politicians but the ultimate aim of education is to unite the people
• Some Malays still need support from government to prevent wealth disparity which split the nation.