KUALA LUMPUR — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak abused the country’s legal system to imprison him a second time for sodomy.
In an interview with The Observer, the sister paper to the UK’s The Guardian, Anwar also said “if the 2013 elections had been free and fair, we would have won and I would not be in jail”.
The PKR de facto leader told the newspaper he had, for a time, been frustrated by Malaysia’s institutions before coming to terms with its frailties and abusers.
“After you have experienced jail for a long time, after so many years, you don’t really have that bitterness. I’m not pretending to be this great humanitarian, merciful person, but honestly I didn’t feel bitter,” Anwar said in response to questions seeking his views on the country’s justice system.
“In the end you philosophise and just accept the unfolding drama.”
The former deputy prime minister, who was first charged with sodomy in 1999 under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration, also said his children were initially unhappy and had disagreed with the call for reconciliation by Dr Mahathir.
Although he was suspicious at the beginning, he decided to give it a chance after discussing with Dr Mahathir, and believed the latter had mellowed with age.
“My children refused to participate, and were in tears in the corner. They couldn’t understand why I would meet this man who made their life hell. They disagreed with me, told me I should not make a deal with Mahathir, said to me ‘you suffered, we all suffered, because of him’.
“It was very difficult for me and initially I said to Mahathir: ‘Why would I want to have anything to do with you any more? I will forgive you, but goodbye: that’s it’.
“But after we talked and knowing the man as I do ― filled as he is with self-confidence, self-indulgent at times ― suddenly coming to see me, his nemesis, in prison, was a sign that he was really desperate or he had really mellowed quite a bit. And that was precisely what had happened.”
Anwar was reported to have told his children it was difficult to turn down an offer by his former nemesis to reconcile and forget the past.
Though he said Dr Mahathir did not apologise for the past ordeal, it was adequate the latter had conceded he should not have fired Anwar then.
“Coming from Mahathir, is good enough for me,” he added.
Dr Mahathir led Pakatan Harapan to win the 14th general election and revealed soon after he was sworn in as prime minister that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V had expressed readiness to pardon Anwar.
His office then arranged a Pardons Board hearing, resulting in Anwar’s exculpation and immediate release from his five-year prison term on Wednesday.
The pardon is crucial for Anwar to contest and win a federal seat to be eligible to succeed Dr Mahathir as prime minister.
The turn of events gained a karmic quality last week. While Anwar’s legal troubles melted away, the same was beginning to build for Najib, who is under a money-laundering investigation related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Anwar offered sage advice to his political rival in the area with which he became painfully familiar: Criminal trials.
“Have good defence lawyers. And express remorse,” he reported said.