Wives of one-time political foes Anwar and Mahathir meet

Tun Dr Mahathir's wife, Tun Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali (right), with Anwar Ibrahim's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, at the latter's home. She gave Dr Wan Azizah a copy of her biography, My Name Is Hasmah.
Tun Dr Mahathir's wife, Tun Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali (right), with Anwar Ibrahim's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, at the latter's home. She gave Dr Wan Azizah a copy of her biography, My Name Is Hasmah.PHOTO: KHAIRUDDIN ABU HASSAN

KUALA LUMPUR • When their husbands - bitter political enemies for 18 years - met and shook hands, it set tongues wagging about a reconciliation.

Two months after that unprecedented meeting between former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, it was their wives' turn.

Last Friday, Tun Dr Mahathir's wife, Tun Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, paid a visit to the home of Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, at the edge of Kuala Lumpur, in a widely reported meeting.

After the hugs, Madam Siti Hasmah, 90, gave Dr Wan Azizah a copy of her biography, My Name Is Hasmah. The 63-year-old gave her visitor goat's milk health products.

Details of the 45-minute meeting were given by Mahathir loyalist Khairuddin Abu Hassan, a former Umno leader.

"It was very touching... Kak Wan (Wan Azizah) greeted and hugged Tun Siti, and tears were shed," he told Malaysiakini news site. "They talked a lot about old times."

Malaysia's two top political families - who became bitter enemies after then Prime Minister Mahathir sacked his No. 2 Anwar in September 1998 - are seen as burying the hatchet, analysts say.

Dr Mahathir, 91, and Anwar, 69, now have the same agenda: they want to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak from power.

While Madam Siti Hasmah is not an upfront political player, she often accompanies her husband to political meetings. Their son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, is deputy president of the Mahathir-led Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Dr Wan Azizah is president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and her daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar is a PKR vice-president and an MP.

That it was the older of the two women who made the journey is seen as a gesture to smooth Dr Mahathir's new role as an opposition politician, columnist Joceline Tan wrote in The Star yesterday.

This is because Dr Wan Azizah and many opposition politicians have yet to accept Dr Mahathir as one of them. They still remember the prosecution of Anwar and how Dr Mahathir used to suppress the opposition.

"Beneath all that ladylike sweetness, the fact that Siti Hasmah had to make the first move shows that the once powerful and mighty have had to eat humble pie," Ms Tan wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Wives of one-time political foes Anwar and Mahathir meet'. Print Edition | Subscribe