Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Former Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad reckons his deputy cum nemesis turned ally Anwar Ibrahim is “too old” at 68 to become prime minister, should his grand coalition succeed in ousting incumbent Najib Razak.
Dr Mahathir, 90, last month set aside two decades of enmity against the man jailed during his tenure on what many regard as politically motivated sodomy charges after failing to execute a putsch against Mr Najib from within the ruling UMNO party he once led.
But he has not resiled from his position that his former deputy, first jailed in 1998, did not have the morals to lead the country. “The fact is, people complained about his moral behaviour. For me that behaviour is not acceptable as a person who was about to succeed me as a president of the party,” he told The Australian .
“I had to expel him from the party. The rest is about his ­immoral behaviour and the people complained against him. The police took action as a result of the complaint and there was a nine-month trial before he was ­detained during my time.”
Dr Mahathir, prime minister from 1981 to 2003, said he had combined forces with a grand ­coalition of opposition parties, ­including Mr Anwar’s People’s Justice Party (PKR), because he was left with no other option.
“I am not in partnership with him. He agreed to support the ­removal of Najib. I cannot afford to reject any support so I can’t just tell him ‘please don’t support me because I don’t like you’.
“ I can’t do that.”
Asked whether he had changed his views on Mr Anwar, who is back in jail serving a five- year sentence on another sodomy charge, he said: “The question of liking or not liking does not arise here. We have similar views with regard to Najib.”
Dr Mahathir’s comments will likely cause consternation in ­Malaysia’s improbable coalition of opposition parties, UMNO dissidents and civil society leaders.
The group was launched last month amid a storm over the multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal involving the state ­investment fund 1MDB, and the transfer of more than $1 billion into Mr Najib’s accounts.
While the Attorney-General controversially cleared Mr Najib of wrongdoing in January, authorities in the US, Singapore, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Hong Kong are believed to be investi­gating 1MDB over what Swiss authorities estimate is the misappropriation of at least $US4bn ($5.3bn).
The opposition hopes to collect a million signatures to present to Malaysia’s ­ruling Sultan to persuade him to dismiss Mr Najib.
But even those within the ­coalition admit it is a fragile and fragmented alliance with no ­discernible uniting force beyond Dr Mahathir, a man many have spent a lifetime opposing.
“One of the problems we have is the lack of direction,” says lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan.
“Who is the prime minister-in-waiting? That’s the question everybody is asking.”
While the consensus is it would be Mr Ibrahim — not due for ­release until after the scheduled 2018 general elections — Dr ­Mahathir has hinted that he would not support that choice.
“I think he is too old,’ he said, claiming his former deputy is now 74, though several online biog­raphies put Mr Anwar’s age at 68.
“When I was in my 70s I ­announced I can’t be PM at the age of 80 so I indicated that I was going to step down and I did ­before I was 80,” he says.
“If people support him, there’s nothing I can say.”
Critics of Dr Mahathir, within UMNO and his new alliance, have accused him of re-entering politics to secure the future of his son, Mukhriz Mahathir, who was forced to resign in February as chief minister of Kedah state under pressure from Mr Najib.
Dr Mahathir rejected those claims, but also dismissed suggestions his son should rule out any tilt at the prime ministership.
- The Australian News.

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