KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's prison authorities on Wednesday (Jan 10) denied former premier Mahathir Mohamad permission to visit fellow opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in hospital.
Anwar is currently serving a five-year sentence for sodomy and is in hospital after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in November. He is scheduled to be released from prison on June 8.
Tun Dr Mahathir said he wanted to thank Anwar for consenting to his nomination as opposition pact Pakatan Harapan's prime ministerial candidate.
"Anwar has a long history with me, it is not easy to reach a consensus," he said.
He also voiced his disappointment that he was not allowed to meet "a friend" despite living in a democratic country.
Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar described the decision to bar Dr Mahathir as arbitrary and uncalled for, considering politicians from the ruling party Umno such as Prime Minister Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi were allowed to visit her father in November.
Ms Nurul Izzah, who is also MP for Lembah Pantai, greeted Dr Mahathir when he arrived at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital at 4.15pm.
They then met Prison Department officials, including the Sungai Buloh Prison director, to seek permission to visit Anwar.
Approximately 35 minutes later, Dr Mahathir and Ms Nurul Izzah informed reporters that the authorities had rejected their request to meet the de facto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
Dr Mahathir's last known meeting with Anwar was on Sept 5, 2016, when the two met for the first time in 18 years. Dr Mahathir had gone to the Kuala Lumpur High Court, where Anwar was attending a hearing.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister, was sacked in 1998 by then Prime Minister Mahathir, when they were both leaders in Umno.
Both men set aside their differences in 2016, when Dr Mahathir left Umno to form Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia after disagreements with Datuk Seri Najib over the fund misappropriation scandal at state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
On Sunday, Dr Mahathir was formally announced as the coalition's choice as prime minister if the opposition wins power in the next general election expected to be held within months. Anwar's wife and PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was named as the coalition's choice to be deputy prime minister in the event of a win.