Malaysiakini Special Report

‘Anwar turned down Dr M's offer to make him senator’

Kow Gah Chie & Shakira Buang  |  Published:  |  Modified:

INTERVIEW | Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had offered his successor Anwar Ibrahim to join the administration by way of a senatorship, said PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution.

In an interview with Malaysiakini, Saifuddin said Mahathir made the suggestion on May 13, three days before Anwar received his full pardon and release over his sodomy conviction.

"When (Mahathir) came to visit Anwar, I was at the ward with them. Mahathir invited Anwar to become a member of the administration and wanted to appoint him as a senator.

"In a polite manner, Anwar said since Wan Azizah (Wan Ismail) is the deputy prime minister, it's better for him not to be part of the administration," he said.

"Meaning, the prime minister definitely wanted to include Anwar and there are two ways to do this, either by appointing Anwar a senator, or if he contests in a parliamentary seat (by-election)," he said.

"Anwar just thanked the prime minister and said to him, the stage is yours, you should be the one who runs the show."

This shows Anwar had full confidence and support for Mahathir, said the Kulim Bandar Baharu MP.

When Mahathir asked about Anwar's plan, the latter said he would travel overseas to give talks and tour around the country to thank the voters for supporting Pakatan Harapan, said Saifuddin.

Anwar had stressed that he would return to politic as a Dewan Rakyat member but was reluctant to do it via a by-election at the Pandan seat won by his wife.

Senators hold the same status as an MP and have commonly been used by BN as a back door to take on a ministerial post.

No timetable

It remains a question when Anwar will return to Parliament so he can succeed Mahathir as the eighth prime minister as planned.

On May 16, the day he became a free man after serving 39 months in jail over a sodomy conviction, he said he would not seek immediate return to politics.

Three weeks later, the PKR de facto leader was reportedly saying he would be back in Parliament within months and might speed up the process.

Saifuddin said PKR has not set a timeline for Anwar’s return to politics, and there is no need to do so.

"He had been with the government since the 1980s, he has vast experience," he said.

"As much as we did not set a timeline for Dr Mahathir Mohamad (to step down as the prime minister), we did not set a timeline for Anwar.

"He can determine himself, whether he wants to have it via a by-election or otherswise, he will decide himself," said the domestic trade and consumerism minister.

"All the PKR parliamentarians have been requested by Anwar and the party president Wan Azizah to support Mahathir and the government, so they can administrate confidently," he said.

Anwar is currently in Turkey undergoing a shoulder operation and recuperating from a spinal operation.

‘No lobbying for ministers’

Meanwhile, Saifuddin also denied allegations that PKR's internal factions and lobbyists were among the causes for the almost 10-week delay in Mahathir's finalised 25-members cabinet to be all sworn in, after Harapan won the May 9 general election.

Soon after Mahathir was sworn in as the premier on May 10, he first appointed three members into his cabinet on May 12, and a second batch of ministers on May 18. The third batch of 13 ministers and all the deputy ministers were sworn in only on July 2.

"It is not true and unfair (to make such an accusation)," said Saifuddin of the delays.

"The prime minister had asked every party to submit their names to the Harapan presidential council meeting and urged them to have trust in him, as this is the prerogative of the prime minister," he said.

PKR submitted ten names on May 14.

"There isn’t any lobbying from PKR, (Not from) Anwar, Wan Azizah or myself, none. We left it to Mahathir," he said.

Some of the names submitted by PKR were not selected, he said.

"It was the same for DAP and Amanah," he said, but declined to divulge those in PKR who had been rejected.

However, Saifuddin admitted party deputy president Azmin Ali, who was then Selangor menteri besar, was not in the list of PKR’s ministerial candidates.

"PKR was very clear that a menteri besar cannot become a minister. Of course PKR is not stupid, not knowing what is stated in the federal constitution," he said.

It was Mahathir who appointed Azmin to the post of minister for economic affairs, he said.

PKR has six cabinet members out of 28 and at first glance, they are mostly aligned with Azmin.

Brushing off allegations that the party is split into two factions - Azmin’s and vice-president Rafizi Ramli’s - Saifuddin said, "My view is that they are all part of the PKR team."

Part 1: Saifuddin in the hot seat, tasked to bring goods prices down

Part 2: Saifuddin: Anwar is an institution to PKR, incomparable to anyone

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