King agrees to pardon Anwar, says Mahathir

Malaysian newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on May 11, 2018.
Malaysian newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on May 11, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Once freed, the politician can contest in by-election, be an MP and take up PM role

Malaysia's King, Sultan Muhammad V, has agreed to grant jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim a full and immediate pardon, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said.

"The Agong has indicated to Lim Guan Eng that he is willing to pardon Datuk Seri Anwar immediately," Tun Dr Mahathir told a news conference yesterday after ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan's (PH) presidential council meeting. Mr Lim is secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party, a member of the PH coalition.

"It is going to be a full pardon, (he will) be released immediately when he is pardoned. After that, he will be free to participate fully in politics," Dr Mahathir added.

The 92-year-old, who was prime minister from 1981 to 2003, was PH's pick for the job, on the understanding that he will eventually hand over the post to Mr Anwar.

A royal pardon will enable Mr Anwar to contest in a by-election, become an MP and get in the frame for the prime minister's post.

Signalling his imminent return to politics, Mr Anwar, in a statement issued from the hospital, thanked "the people of Malaysia for their courage in making a change which is a victory for the people".

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir chaired a meeting to discuss the new Cabinet yesterday morning, a day after being sworn in as Prime Minister.

He said Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail would be appointed deputy prime minister - the same post her husband Anwar held under Dr Mahathir in his earlier stint as premier before the two fell out.

Another meeting will be held today to discuss and select the ministers who will helm 10 key ministries, including finance, home affairs, defence, education, economy, transport and foreign affairs.

"We do not want to have a huge Cabinet, but there are certain ministries which need to be filled immediately," said Dr Mahathir.

He had earlier warned that some heads of government departments will be removed for aiding the previous "kleptocrat" administration. Yesterday, he singled out Election Commission chief Mohd Hashim Abdullah and Attorney-General Apandi Ali, saying they would be investigated for possible wrongdoing.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called Dr Mahathir to congratulate him. He said in a Facebook post: "I wished him and his government all the best, and I hope to catch up with him in person very soon, either in KL or in Singapore."

Yesterday, PH's Kedah chairman Mukhriz Mahathir was sworn in as the state's Menteri Besar, while its Melaka chair Adly Zahari was sworn in as Melaka Chief Minister.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'King agrees to pardon Anwar, says Mahathir'. Print Edition | Subscribe