A new partnership was essential to overcome the deeply entrenched, corrupt system that was presiding over Malaysia, he says

KUALA LUMPUR: For many Malaysians, it has been surreal to see Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail sharing the same stage with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who first put her husband in jail back in 1998, in what was seen as a politically-motivated move.

However, for Anwar Ibrahim it was essential for PKR to work with Mahathir to remove Barisan Nasional from federal power, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“A new partnership was essential to overcome the deeply entrenched, corrupt system that was presiding over Malaysia,” Anwar told the Australian daily on May 15, a day before his expected release.

He said after working with Mahathir for many years, he understood that the former and now current prime minister cares deeply about Malaysia and the people of Malaysia.

“Our litmus test has always been supporting the reform agenda,” he said.

“So long as there is sincere commitment to these principles, we have always welcomed new supporters. The animosity which preoccupies some observers is not an issue for me.”

The Sydney Morning Herald said Anwar expressed confidence that he would be able to work with Mahathir, whose star power and tireless campaigning had led Pakatan Harapan to victory on May 9.

Anwar said he never lost hope, even though he had been imprisoned over two sodomy charges for a total for 11 years.

“I always believed in the wisdom of the people and that if we fought hard enough we would eventually prevail,” he said.

Anwar’s first sodomy charge was in 1998, when he was the deputy prime minister and protégé to the then-prime minister Mahathir.

Following the charge, Mahathir sacked Anwar from Cabinet and it then triggered the formation of PKR and the reformasi movement.

Anwar was found guilty and sentenced to jail in 1999, but was released in 2004 after his sodomy verdict was overturned.

In March 2014, Anwar was sentenced to another five-year jail term for a second sodomy charge. That sentence would bar him from contesting in GE14.

Despite that, Anwar remained as PKR’s de facto leader and had played a role from behind bars.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald that the hardest thing about being in jail was missing his children and grandchildren.

In this new era, he reminded Malaysians to uphold “respect for all Malaysians” – a reference to addressing racism embedded in the country’s laws – “independence of the judiciary, rule of law, free media and proper separation of powers”.

“The road ahead will challenge the best among us to deliver what we promised to the people,” he said.

“At a time when democracy is in retreat around the world, I hope that the people of Malaysia have given some hope to people around the world clamouring for their own freedom,” he added.