Call for royal pardons for Anwar Ibrahim on Federal Territory Day on February 1 and that Mahathir should face Anwar’s challenge directly in the political arena and not any other terrain

- Bagan “Solidarity with Fong Po Kuan” Dinner
Lim Kit Siang

(Bagan,  Thursday): Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad denied the Far Eastern Economic Review   report (issue cover-dated 24.1.2002) of rumours  in early September of a “deal for political reconciliation” struck with the now-jailed former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim  after a “secret hour-long meeting during a car ride along the winding Karak Highway outside Kuala Lumpur”.

Mahathir told reporters after the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council meeting yesterday: “I want to tell you that I did not take a four-wheeler with somebody to the Karak Highway”.

Those whispers and rumours disappeared after  the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, which brought about a sea-change in global and Malaysian politics as well as in Malaysian-American relations.

Before September 11, Mahathir was unable to get an appointment with President Bush but after the World Trade Centre horrors, it was Bush who telephoned Mahathir.   After September 11, in the international coalition and  war against terrorism, the Anwar Ibrahim affair disappeared from the American radar screen for Malaysia with the United States Ambassador to Malaysia, Marie Huhtala saying  in a recent interview that although Anwar did not have fair trials the two times he went to court, “it could be corrected in the appeals process”.

Huhtala did not explain what she meant by “correction” in the appeals process, whether it must involve quashing of conviction and sentence or whether  it could mean upholding  the conviction and sentence.

Mahathir will be making  his first official visit to the United States after a long while, and  almost at the time,  Anwar’s appeal on his corruption case would be heard by the Federal Court early next month.

The Anwar case has been a political trauma for Malaysia creating a deep divide and poison in the Malaysian body politic. Anwar posed a great   political challenge to Mahathir, a challenge which must be fought out in the political process and not through the abuse or misuse of powers involving other terrain like the administration of justice.

The country has a new Yang di Pertuan Agong and the time has come to draw out the poison from  the Malaysian body politic by restoring the Anwar challenge to the political arena where it rightly belongs.  This can be done with the grant of  royal pardons by the Yang di Pertuan Agong to Anwar on the occasion of Federal Territory Day on February 1, restore Anwar’s personal liberty, civic and political rights.  Mahathir must be prepared to face and fight out Anwar’s political challenge in the political arena through the democratic and constitutional process.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman