The day Dr M wore ‘Anwar’ on his chest


(MMO) – He had once taken Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim under his wing, made the firebrand his deputy prime minister and then sacked him from government in 1998.

After 18 long years, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar met in court two months ago and much ado was made of the handshake between the duo.

Yet no one would have ever imagined that the day would come when Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister would openly wear a button badge urging to “Free Anwar” from prison on his shirt, and right above where his heart is located.

After all, this was the man seen as responsible for first sending Anwar to prison for six years. The then next-in-line to be prime minister was first locked up under the Internal Security Act — now abolished — for organising the biggest anti-government street demonstration in Kuala Lumpur in the late 1990s, and later convicted of power abuse as well as sodomy, though the latter offence was later cancelled in 2004, freeing him to resume his political career.

Even after the initial reconciliatory overture on September 5, Dr Mahathir still demurred when asked about the release of the de facto PKR leader.

“All plans of the party will come later. Now, we cannot make any promises because we are powerless. If that is the desire of all, surely we cannot say no. We will look into the efforts [to release Anwar] later,” he was quoted by national newswire Bernama as saying then.

Fast forward two months and yesterday, Dr Mahathir showed himself the consummate politician.

At the inaugural convention of the Opposition pact known as Pakatan Harapan in Shah Alam, the 91-year-old chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia was approached by someone who pinned the badge with the likeness of the de facto Opposition leader and the words “Free Anwar” onto his left breast pocket.

To his merit, Dr Mahathir accepted the badge without fuss and made no attempt to remove it for the remainder of the convention, in which he declared his new party is now the fourth member of Pakatan Harapan.

But Dr Mahathir’s attitude towards Anwar who is incarcerated again at the Sungai Buloh Prison, should no longer be a surprise.

Ever since he took up the “Citizens’ Declaration” last March and openly opposed the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the former Umno president has been venturing deeper into the Opposition’s waters.

The man who has steadfastly opposed any sort of public demonstration for nearly half his entire political career spanning nearly 70 years participated in one last year, Bersih 4.

He is also expected to join in the next Bersih 5 rally scheduled for November 19 in the national capital.

To paraphrase Henry Kissinger: There are no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.