Anwar's release will take time, says his lawyer

Process of formalising pardon has started but his reentry into politics will take time as well

Pakatan Harapan's prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim watching the swearing-in ceremony of Tun Mahathir Mohamad from his hospital bed on May 10, 2018.
Pakatan Harapan's prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim watching the swearing-in ceremony of Tun Mahathir Mohamad from his hospital bed on May 10, 2018.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/BEBAS ANWAR
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is recovering from surgery in a hospital, watching Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad being sworn in as Malaysia's prime minister on live TV on Thursday night, in an image obtained from social media. PHOTO: REUTERS

The lawyer for jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim has tempered expectations he will be prime minister soon, after Malaysia's King yesterday agreed to immediately give Datuk Seri Anwar a royal pardon and his family members rushed to his hospital ward to give him the good news.

"The process for Anwar's release and royal pardon has started. I think everyone involved will understand that it is urgent, but it will still take a few weeks before Anwar will be released," Mr Sivarasa Rasiah told The Star newspaper yesterday.


Mr Anwar is the prime minister-in-waiting of Pakatan Harapan (PH), the coalition that swept a majority of parliamentary seats at the general election on Wednesday, ending Barisan Nasional's (BN) six decades in power. He is serving a five-year sentence for sodomy and is due to be released on June 8. He is currently warded at a hospital in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, to recover from recent surgery.

Before the May 9 election, the four-party pact had agreed that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would be appointed prime minister if PH won, on the understanding that he would hand over the post to Mr Anwar once he is released and eligible to contest a by-election and become an MP. Malaysian law disqualifies Mr Anwar from running for office for five years after his release unless he is pardoned by the King.

After announcing Sultan Muhammad V's agreement yesterday, Dr Mahathir added that the process for Mr Anwar to become a Member of Parliament "may take a long time".

The 92-year-old Prime Minister has, however, made clear his willingness to expedite the process, saying PH would immediately begin the process of getting Mr Anwar's pardon formalised. "I can't stay for very long. At the most, I can last for two years," he told Japanese newspaper Mainichi in a recent interview.

Mr Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PH pick for deputy prime minister, told reporters yesterday she was optimistic and touched by the King's willingness to pardon her husband.

Mr Anwar's Facebook page yesterday carried a video of him watching Dr Mahathir on live TV being sworn in as the country's seventh prime minister on Thursday night.


Both men were former senior leaders in Umno, the party which leads BN. During his first tenure as PM from 1981 to 2003, Dr Mahathir sacked Mr Anwar as his deputy, prompting the formation in 1999 of then opposition Parti Keadilan Nasional, the precursor to PKR.

The former foes became allies in 2016, after Dr Mahathir left Umno and formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, a member of PH.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'Anwar's release will take time, says his lawyer'. Subscribe