Mahathir defends his treatment of Anwar in 1998

Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right) greeting Anwar Ibrahim in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Sept 5 last year. The former Malaysian premier said both he and Anwar are "not angry over the past".
Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right) greeting Anwar Ibrahim in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Sept 5 last year. The former Malaysian premier said both he and Anwar are "not angry over the past".PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA • Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has defended his treatment of opposition pact Pakatan Harapan's de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim in 1998.

Responding to a question about whether he had any regrets about his treatment of Anwar, the former prime minister said that he had been "responding to the situation at hand".

"But now, it is different," said Dr Mahathir, who is Pakatan Harapan chairman, in an interview yesterday with Thai journalist and Nation Multimedia Group chairman Suthichai Yoon.

Said Dr Mahathir: "If we keep on raking up the past, you can never work with anybody.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

"You will always be fighting against your enemies, and that is bad.

"I'm not angry over the past, he is not angry over the past also."

In the interview, Dr Mahathir also described Anwar as "quite capable" of becoming prime minister, adding that Malaysia's future premiers "will not be so powerful as the present one".

In 1998, with Malaysia under Dr Mahathir's leadership, Anwar, who was then deputy prime minister, was fired from Cabinet.

DON'T HARP ON THE PAST

If we keep on raking up the past, you can never work with anybody. You will always be fighting against your enemies, and that is bad.

TUN DR MAHATHIR MOHAMED

He was put on trial for corruption and sodomy and later convicted of both, before having the sodomy verdict overturned in 2004 when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was prime minister.

In the same interview, Dr Mahathir exonerated his former "enemy", Mr Lim Kit Siang, claiming that the Democractic Action Party adviser was "not as bad" as he had made him out to be in the past.

"When you are in the government, you have to demonise your opposition," said Dr Mahathir, adding that Mr Lim is "very much disliked by people of my old party".

"But people realise that he is not as bad as I made him out to be in the past," said Dr Mahathir.

During Dr Mahathir's tenure as prime minister in 1987, Mr Lim was arrested under Ops Lalang and spent 17 months in prison without trial under the Internal Security Act.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2017, with the headline 'Mahathir defends his treatment of Anwar in 1998'. Print Edition | Subscribe