Mahathir, Anwar meet for first time in 18 years

Dr Mahathir (right) meeting Anwar in court yesterday. They shook hands in a clear sign that old grudges paled in significance to a shared mission to take down Mr Najib over the 1MDB scandal.
Dr Mahathir (right) meeting Anwar in court yesterday. They shook hands in a clear sign that old grudges paled in significance to a shared mission to take down Mr Najib over the 1MDB scandal.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF NAJWAN HALIMI

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his protege-turned-archrival Anwar Ibrahim shook hands yesterday, their first meeting since a bitter falling out 18 years ago signalling an end to their feud and an acknowledgement of a common enemy.

Though both men dwelt on their respective agendas when talking to the media, the message was clear: Old grudges pale in significance to a shared mission to take down Prime Minister Najib Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal.

"First meeting after 18 years 2 days... Since 2 September 1998," Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail tweeted, posting a photo of the two men shaking hands in a crowded courtroom.

The cordial meeting of the old foes sparked disbelief and shock on social media, especially among those who remember the power struggle in the late 1990s that resulted in violent street protests.

Dr Mahathir, who led the country as prime minister for 22 years until 2003, said he turned up to support Anwar's efforts to stop the controversial National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 from being enforced.

Asked if he would endorse Anwar as the next prime minister should Datuk Seri Najib be ousted, Dr Mahathir would only say: "I endorse his action against the NSC." He also pointed out that he too has repeatedly criticised the new law.

The jailed opposition leader, who Dr Mahathir sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998, was in court to file an injunction against the Act, which critics say gives Mr Najib unfettered powers to declare security zones that are effectively under emergency rule.

Anwar said Dr Mahathir's appearance meant that the former prime minister presumably supported his longstanding fight for reforms.

"He has shown preparedness to come and pledge his support for the application and wish me well," said Anwar, who promised to engage the 91-year-old leader.

After his sacking, Anwar was jailed for abuse of power and sodomy, charges that he said were a conspiracy by his former boss. The sodomy conviction was later overturned and he was released in 2004.

He was convicted of a new sodomy charge last year and sentenced to five years' jail. Since then, the opposition alliance he had held together has split.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Mahathir, Anwar meet for first time in 18 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe