Malaysia's freed politician Anwar Ibrahim has said he will not serve in the new government of Pakatan Harapan (PH) for now, as he needs "time and space" to rest with his family and to travel abroad to fulfil teaching and speaking engagements.
The 70-year-old pledged his support for the leadership of newly minted Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
"As a citizen, I would give complete support (to them) to manage the affairs of this country on the understanding that we are committed to the reform agenda. I will be kept informed, but I don't need to serve in the Cabinet for now," he said.
Datuk Seri Anwar, a former deputy prime minister to Tun Dr Mahathir between 1993 and 1998, was speaking to reporters at his home in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur, yesterday after receiving a royal pardon from the King that morning.
Dr Mahathir has promised to step down as prime minister in two years to make way for Mr Anwar. To be appointed a Cabinet minister, Mr Anwar will first have to win a seat in the Lower House of Parliament in a by-election or be sworn in as a senator in the Upper House.
Mr Anwar, however, told reporters he was in no rush to succeed his former nemesis, adding that they have discussed the matter before.
"My position is to give him necessary support to ensure the agenda for reform, the changes that need to be effectively carried out... I don't think I would be seen as hasty or to demand for an immediate timeframe," he said, adding that Dr Mahathir has the prerogative to decide on Cabinet appointments.
SUPPORT FOR REFORMS
My position is to give him necessary support to ensure the agenda for reform, the changes that need to be effectively carried out... I don't think I would be seen as hasty or to demand for an immediate timeframe.
DATUK SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM, who said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has the right to decide on Cabinet appointments.
In the evening yesterday, Mr Anwar spoke at a rally in Petaling Jaya attended by thousands of people, in his first public speech as a free man after being jailed from February 2015 because of a second sodomy conviction.
"Enough of corruption and intimidation. We have entered a new era for Malaysia," Mr Anwar told the cheering crowd.
Earlier yesterday, Malaysia's most well-known prisoner walked out of the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur at 11.20am, as crowds of supporters cheered and shouted chants of "Reformasi!" ("reform"), the battle cry of those protesting against his sacking in 1998 and subsequent conviction for sodomy and abuse of power.
Mr Anwar, who was serving a second prison term for sodomy before yesterday's release, has always maintained that the charges against him were part of a conspiracy to end his political career.
The de facto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) left the hospital and headed to the palace, where he was granted an audience with the King at noon, together with Dr Wan Azizah and Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali. Dr Wan Azizah is PKR president and Datuk Seri Azmin the deputy president.
Mr Anwar was greeted by Dr Mahathir on his arrival at the palace. After a one-hour meeting with the King, the senior politician left the palace for his home.
He thanked the King "for taking the immediate and firm decision" to release him without any conditions. He said the prison authorities had informed him that his criminal record has also been completely erased.
"In my case, we appealed because there was a miscarriage of justice, we appealed because there was a travesty of justice. We appealed because there was a clear conspiracy to condemn me, assassinate my political character," he said, also thanking the Malaysian people for standing by the principles of democracy and freedom.
"I must thank the people of Malaysia. Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Iban; the entire spectrum of our Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, who stood by the principles of democracy and freedom. They demand change, and it is our duty now to ensure that this mandate given to Pakatan Harapan will honour this commitment," he added.
But he also cautioned "one election does not a democracy make".