Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today claimed he did what he could for his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim.
He said this during a town hall session with youths at the community hall here today.
When asked whether he stood by all he had accused Anwar of during his tenure as prime minister, Mahathir dodged the question by saying what was done to Anwar was a police decision, and that firing him from Umno was also a party decision.
“But, of course, you won’t believe me,” he said.
Mahathir is now chairman of Pakatan Harapan, which comprises PKR, DAP, Amanah and PPBM.
Mahathir claimed that during the three years before Anwar’s arrest, police had been sending reports of his alleged misdeeds.
“I thought police were trying to undermine him and so I didn’t take action.
“Later, police gave me detailed reports and I still didn’t want to believe them.
“I wanted to interview these people who had allegedly been abused.”
Mahathir said he only believed the claims after the people interviewed admitted that they were true.
“I asked the party what should be done, and the party said Anwar was no longer fit to be in the party. Beyond that was police action.”
Mahathir also said it was his decision for the police not to take Anwar in handcuffs or a mask during his arrest.
In 1998, Newsweek magazine named Anwar the “Asian of the Year”. However, in that year, matters between Anwar and Mahathir came to a head around the time of the quadrennial Umno general assembly.
Umno Youth, headed by Anwar’s associate and now Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, gave notice that it would initiate a debate on “cronyism and nepotism”.
At the general assembly, a book, “50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM” (50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Become Prime Minister) was circulated.
It contained graphic allegations of homosexuality, as well as accusations of corruption against Anwar. The book was written by Khalid Jafri, an ex-editor of government-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia and former editor-in-chief of a failed magazine, Harian National.
Anwar obtained a court injunction to prevent further distribution of the book and filed a suit against the author for defamation. Anwar won RM4.5 million in damages against Khalid.
The author of the book was charged with malicious publishing of false news, and police were instructed to investigate the veracity of the claims.
In what the Sydney Morning Herald termed a “blatantly political fix-up”, Anwar was arrested on Sept 20, 1998. He was subsequently charged with corruption for allegedly interfering in police investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.-FMT