Jailed leader Anwar calls shots from hospital bed

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, visiting jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Hospital Kuala Lumpur on Nov 17, after the latter had an operation to his shoulder. With them was Anwar's wife, Datuk Seri
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, visiting jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Hospital Kuala Lumpur on Nov 17, after the latter had an operation to his shoulder. With them was Anwar's wife, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.PHOTO: TWITTER/NAJIB RAZAK

KUALA LUMPUR • It is an open secret by now that jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim seems to be calling the shots in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) from his hospital bed.

Conspiracy theories are swirling in PKR circles about how Malaysia's most special prisoner is able to host meetings with party leaders at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital, where he has been warded since last week.

 

Party insiders say that as a result of the special conditions accorded to him, Anwar was able to have the final say on his party's candidate list, which made headline news.

Visiting conditions in Sungai Buloh prison - where Anwar is serving a five-year jail sentence for sodomy - are very strict but access rules at the Cheras hospital are far more relaxed.

The ketua umum, or paramount leader, as he is known in PKR, has been allowed visits from, among others, his wife and PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and deputy president Azmin Ali.

The fact that he was transferred from his Sungai Buloh lock-up to the Cheras facility has sparked all sorts of speculation. He is not known to be ill and his shoulder has healed after an operation several months ago. So why is he at the Cheras facility?

The government he is trying to overthrow seems to be making it all too easy for him to manage his party from his hospital bed.

 
 
 

Among the stories circulating in PKR is that it is the government's way of monitoring the goings-on in PKR, including what is being discussed and planned.

However, the most pervasive theory is that there is some sort of political deal going on between the top brass at PKR and ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders.

The authorities have also not restricted visits from other party leaders. It is understood that PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution and vice-presidents Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah Anwar have been seeing Anwar to consult him on the general election.

All of this has raised questions about what is actually going on between BN and PKR leaders. Are they enemies or "frenemies"?

If they really are trying to topple each other, then why the special treatment for Anwar and PKR leaders at such a crucial time?

The alignment between the political elites, said a political risk analyst, seems to be so fluid, and this sends out conflicting and mixed signals to the ground.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2018, with the headline 'Jailed leader Anwar calls shots from hospital bed'. Print Edition | Subscribe