Mahathir says that he was wrong to sack Anwar

Posters of Anwar Ibrahim (right) and Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Shah Alam. Dr Mahathir says he made the wrong decision to go strictly by the book and sack Anwar, who was deputy prime minister and finance minister.
Posters of Anwar Ibrahim (right) and Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Shah Alam. Dr Mahathir says he made the wrong decision to go strictly by the book and sack Anwar, who was deputy prime minister and finance minister.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PUTRAJAYA • Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said if he could turn back time and choose again, he would not have sacked his then deputy Anwar Ibrahim.

In an interview with Sin Chew Daily at his office in Putrajaya, Tun Mahathir, 92, said he should not have strictly followed the law.

He said he made the wrong decision to go strictly by the book, and should not have taken the action against Anwar in 1998.

Anwar was charged and convicted of corruption and sodomy after his sacking, but the sodomy conviction was later overturned.

Said Dr Mahathir: "From a political point of view, I would not have done this. When I was the prime minister, I promised myself not to do anything that would make people hate me."

Dr Mahathir, who is now the chairman of opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, said he had no choice back then, as the police had presented all the evidence to him.

He said if he were a dictator, as many have called him, he could have put Anwar directly in jail, instead of giving him a trial.

He said: "I was angry with the police. I asked them why they didn't give him a trial. They didn't tell me initially but later said they had given him a black eye. But I insisted that he be given a trial."

Anwar was assaulted while he was in police custody in Sept 1998. Former police chief Abdul Rahim Noor later took responsibility for the beating.

Dr Mahathir also said he only had the power to sack Anwar as deputy prime minister and finance minister, and it was the Umno supreme council's collective decision to sack Anwar as the party's deputy president.

"They not only didn't want him to be deputy president, they also didn't want him in the party.

"It was not my decision," he said.

SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Mahathir says that he was wrong to sack Anwar'. Print Edition | Subscribe