Monday, 17 September 2018

Singapore one of first countries I will visit as Prime Minister: Anwar Ibrahim at Singapore Summit 2018

Singapore-Malaysia ties have been historically strong but need constant care, he says
By Lim Ai Leen, Assistant Foreign Editor, The Sunday Times, 16 Sep 2018

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday that Singapore will be one of the first countries he visits when he becomes prime minister, stressing that the two countries need to forge strong bonds.

The de facto leader of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition was asked to comment on bilateral relations between the neighbouring nations at a conference here.

"Singapore-Malaysia relations... Ada problem ke? (Is there a problem?)," he remarked, drawing laughter from hundreds of business and thought leaders at the Singapore Summit 2018.

Datuk Seri Anwar, who was released from prison in May after receiving a royal pardon, is set to succeed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in two years, as agreed by the PH leadership before May's general election.

Last week, Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat announced he would contest a by-election in Port Dickson, paving the way for him to return to Parliament. "If and when I assume the premiership, then I will make sure that one of the first countries I visit will be Singapore," he declared at the dialogue yesterday.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a photo on Facebook of his meeting with Mr Anwar yesterday. "Glad he is spending some time with our academic institutions, meeting Singaporeans, building bridges, and strengthening ties between our countries," said PM Lee. He also wished Mr Anwar well for the upcoming by-election.

In the four months since PH's historic win at the ballot box, Malaysia has deferred the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail project and raised the prickly issue of how much it charges to supply water to Singapore, indicating the price should be raised tenfold.

Mr Anwar noted yesterday that it was not sensible to create problems between the two countries.

He said that while Tun Dr Mahathir was firm on some of these contracts, "it was confined to that particular problem and we try to resolve it on a bilateral basis, proceed with negotiations..."

In his first public appearance in Singapore since his release from jail, the seasoned statesman played to the crowd with his trademark mix of fiery rhetoric, literary quotes and jokey asides. He even apologised for stumbling over some words in his speech, explaining: "In prison, I only spoke Malay."

He recalled that on one of his visits to Singapore - before he was sacked as deputy prime minister by Dr Mahathir in 1998 - he told Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who was then prime minister, that Singaporean leaders were too serious.

"You know, Singapore and Singapore leaders are too serious and business-like. We (Malaysians) tend to, you know, cultural sikit (a little)... relax sikit, give and take sikit. Singapore - (it's) dollars and cents," he said.

A month later, he said Mr Goh invited him to a performance by renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

"He took my words seriously," Mr Anwar exclaimed as Mr Goh, who was in the audience, laughed.

Mr Anwar also stressed that relations between Singapore and Malaysia have been historically strong but need constant care.

He singled out, as an example, PM Lee's visit to Putrajaya soon after PH won the election. "It was very cordial and it was a very (good) gesture for the PM to be the first to come and visit. I think these signals are important because this goes beyond just diplomatic encounters or business deals."


If and when I assume the premiership, then I will make sure that one of the first countries I visit will be Singapore.

DATUK SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM, after being asked to comment on bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore.



Am I in a hurry? No. Because I told PM Mahathir that I will focus on parliamentary reform.

MR ANWAR, on criticism that he is impatient to take over from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after announcing plans to contest a by-election in Port Dickson by the end of the year.


Our position is Azizah will step down as DPM; this will be announced right from the beginning when I assume office. For Nurul Izzah, let's see what her position is, I don't know. I don't want to speculate. But in terms of what's important now, Azizah will not serve in the Cabinet.

MR ANWAR, when asked whether his wife, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and his daughter Nurul Izzah, both of whom are MPs, will have Cabinet posts when he becomes PM.

Call for needs-based, not race-based, affirmative action: Malaysia's prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim
By Lim Ai Leen, Assistant Foreign Editor, The Sunday Times, 16 Sep 2018

Malaysia's decades-old affirmative action policy is obsolete and should be needs-based rather than race-based, prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday.

But he assured the Malay heartland - who currently benefit from cheaper homes, reserved spots at local universities and preferential access to government contracts - that those who are marginalised, especially in rural areas, will still be taken care of.

"So meritocracy has its basis and must be supported. But affirmative action policies that would cater for the plight of the underprivileged, the poor, the marginalised, must be continued, but it must be needs-based and not race-based," he said.

The national economic policy was just one of the many Malaysian reforms Datuk Seri Anwar spoke about during the S. Rajaratnam Endowment Dialogue at the Singapore Summit 2018. The former deputy prime minister, who plans to take over the reins from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in two years' time as agreed by the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, gave an overview of the state of the nation that not only outlined measures to move the country forward, but also offered a glimpse into his vision and priorities as Malaysia's next leader.

Among the reforms he outlined were moves to root out corruption and ensure the independence of the judiciary, media and agencies like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Auditor-General's Office. "Never again will we allow the executive to wield so much power and do so much damage to the nation," he said, in a veiled reference to the financial scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad that occurred during the former administration of Najib Razak.

After announcing last Wednesday that he would run in a by-election in Port Dickson by the year end to become an elected MP, the former jailed leader faces some criticism that he is impatient to ascend to power. "Am I in a hurry? No. Because I told PM Mahathir that I will focus on parliamentary reform."

In his speech, Mr Anwar also commended Tun Dr Mahathir for several moves during his four months as leader - namely his efforts to reform institutions and rein in state spending. "We support him (Mahathir)," Mr Anwar later told reporters. "I don't think we should be rushing to it because he is playing a very critical role for the country, and the country needs stability and a strong leader... I want to make sure he is effective in his position."

Mr Anwar also told the international audience of mainly business leaders that Malaysia hoped to transform into "a new economic force in the region, with vibrant pro-growth policies and a stable and clear business environment where the rule of law prevails and democratic institutions are firmly in place".

* SMU Ho Rih Hwa Leadership Lecture 2018

Anwar Ibrahim looks forward to Oct 13 by-election challenge and returning to power
He captivates students, diplomats and academics at SMU event with his candid responses
By Arlina Arshad, Regional Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Sep 2018

As he watched his former nemesis Mahathir Mohamad being sworn in as Malaysia's seventh prime minister on television on May 10, politician Anwar Ibrahim thought to himself from his hospital bed: "It should be me, not you."

On hearing this candid response to a question from a student at Singapore Management University (SMU) yesterday, the audience of about 1,200 students, academics and diplomats broke into laughter and clapped wildly.

For an hour, Datuk Seri Anwar, the de facto leader of Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, was quizzed on a range of issues, from Singapore-Malaysia bilateral relations and plans when he becomes Malaysia's prime minister, to what keeps him awake at night.

Said the charismatic reformer, referring to his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail: "What keeps me awake at night is Azizah. If she doesn't bother me, I can sleep."

The robust question-and-answer session was the highlight of the session with Mr Anwar, titled Leadership In The 21st Century: Winds Of Change. It was part of SMU's Ho Rih Hwa Leadership Lecture Series with notable entrepreneurs, business leaders and political figures.

Mr Anwar peppered his speech with quotes from poets and philosophers, and touched on ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China, the need to nurture creative minds and the need for leaders to maintain values such as humility and compassion.

He also said that oppression and discrimination must not be condoned. "I will not ever compromise the need to respect freedom and justice. I do not want any Malaysian deprived of his or her rights."

The lecture was his second public appearance in Singapore since his release from prison in May, following a royal pardon for a sodomy conviction he says was politically motivated.

At the Singapore Summit 2018 last Saturday, he had stressed the importance of strengthening ties between Malaysia and Singapore, and said the Republic is among the first countries he would visit when he becomes prime minister.

Yesterday's lecture came hours after Malaysia's Election Commission announced that the by-election for Port Dickson, needed to pave the way for Mr Anwar's return to Parliament, will be held on Oct 13. Nomination Day is on Sept 29.

A total of 75,770 people are eligible to vote in the constituency.

The 71-year-old was upbeat about his chances. The Barisan Nasional opposition coalition has yet to name its candidate.

Mr Anwar said: "Some people say why should you (face a) challenge, you should win uncontested. Okay, but who am I to claim I am the supremo that nobody can challenge? No. I welcome a challenge... I will have to appeal to the voters."

Mr Anwar compares the looming by-election to the battle between his former protege, Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, and party vice-president Rafizi Ramli for the deputy president post in his Parti Keadilan Rakyat. The contest is expected to be held tomorrow.

"Both are smart, intelligent, good track record. Why is it going to divide the party? The only solution is to have no contest, and then I will follow the North Korean method," Mr Anwar quipped.

"If this is a democracy, you must tolerate differences, you must accept the fact that people will campaign," he added.

This internal contest has already created camps in the party, whose logo - two white crescents on a blue background, resembling an eye - is a symbol of the black eye Mr Anwar received when the former deputy PM was beaten by Dr Mahathir's then police chief on the night of his arrest on Sept 20, 1998.

Mr Anwar is now set to take over from Dr Mahathir in about two years. Asked what he plans to do when he becomes PM, Mr Anwar said, to laughter: "Make me PM first, lah. We settle one at a time."

* Anwar Ibrahim storms to victory in Port Dickson by-election, wins 72% of vote
He cements position as Malaysia's next PM, storming to victory in seven-cornered fight
By Hazlin Hassan, Malaysia Correspondent In Port Dickson, The Sunday Times, 14 Oct 2018

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim stormed to victory in the Port Dickson by-election yesterday, garnering 72 per cent of the vote and cementing his position as the country's next prime minister.

The de facto leader of ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) also proved his mettle by winning with a majority of 23,560 votes, exceeding that of previous MP Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, who had won the parliamentary seat in the May general election by a margin of 17,710 votes.

"This victory is an important milestone and a vote of confidence for the Pakatan Harapan government and the reform agenda and the Prime Minister personally," said Datuk Seri Anwar at a press conference after the results were announced last night.

The 71-year-old former deputy prime minister said he would be sworn in tomorrow, bringing him a step closer to fulfilling the agreement by PH to eventually make him Malaysia's eighth prime minister.

Professor James Chin, a political analyst at the University of Tasmania's Asia Institute, said: "Anwar will be entering Parliament with his reputation as PM-in-waiting intact. He will be seen as a heavyweight and will be on track to take over from Tun Mahathir in two years' time."

Voting got off to a damp, sluggish start yesterday morning, with the light drizzle keeping constituents home and away from the 32 polling centres in the district.

Attendance picked up in the afternoon and the Election Commission said 58.2 per cent of the 68,317 eligible voters had cast their votes yesterday.

This was the highest turnout for a by-election since the May election, but still fell short of the 70 per cent target hoped for by Mr Anwar's supporters. Voter fatigue and disenchantment were partly to blame.

Mr Batumalai Ranggasamy, 46, a maintenance technician, had travelled from Klang, Selangor, yesterday to cast his vote.

"You can see the polling centre is quite empty this time because people don't like this by-election (being held), and the government spending money on it," he said, referring to the estimated cost of RM3.6 million (S$1.2 million). "If you are already in power, spend money on poor people, not this."

Mr Anwar could not stand for election in May because he was in prison. He received a royal pardon after PH won federal power, allowing him to contest the Port Dickson seat that was vacated specially for him by Datuk Danyal last month.

The constituency is considered a stronghold for PH as Parti Keadilan Rakyat, which Mr Anwar leads, won it comfortably in the last three general elections.

Yesterday's seven-cornered fight saw Mr Anwar's main rivals - former air force officer Mohd Nazari Mokhtar of Parti Islam SeMalaysia and former Umno vice-president Isa Samad, who was Negeri Sembilan's menteri besar for 22 years - trail far behind, collecting only 7,456 and 4,230 votes respectively.

Tan Sri Isa and the remaining independent candidates will lose their deposits after failing to secure at least one-eighth of the votes cast. They are Mr Anwar's former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who lodged the sodomy complaint that landed Mr Anwar in jail in 2015, Ms Lau Seck Yan, Mr Stevie Chan Keng Leong and Mr Kan Chee Yuen.

After the results were announced, Ms Lau said she hoped "PD will be transformed as promised in so many ways", using the common moniker for the seaside town.

Many hope that with Mr Anwar as their MP and future prime minister, proper development will finally reach Port Dickson. "It is good that Anwar Ibrahim wins as he is from the ruling government, so he would have the funds to develop PD. That is what everyone in PD wants," said Ms Laili Sulaiman, 54, who owns a shop selling scarves.

** Malaysian PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim sworn in as Port Dickson MP on 15 Oct 2018
Back as MP, Anwar says he's in no hurry to become Prime Minister
He says that PM Mahathir should be given 'space and latitude' to run country
By Hazlin Hassan, Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2018

Former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as a federal lawmaker yesterday, and indicated that he was not in any hurry to take over from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Datuk Seri Anwar, 71, was sworn in two days after a thumping victory in the Port Dickson by-election, clearing another hurdle in his path to becoming Malaysia's eighth prime minister as part of a succession plan agreed upon by the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

Wearing a black Malay baju and songkok (headdress), Mr Anwar was sworn in on the first day of the second session of Parliament under the five-month-old PH administration.

Asked by reporters whether Tun Dr Mahathir, 93, had indicated a timeline for him to take over as prime minister, Mr Anwar said: "No, I don't think that is an issue as far as I am concerned."

He added: "Let him have the space and latitude to continue unaffected by the constraints of time or pressure. That is very important."

Dr Mahathir quit Umno in 2016 and went on to work with the opposition, including Mr Anwar, whom he had sacked in 1998. They eventually came up with a power-sharing arrangement should they win the elections.

Leaders of PH had agreed before the May General Election that Dr Mahathir would lead South-east Asia's fourth-biggest economy for two years should the alliance win federal power, and then pass the premiership to Mr Anwar.

Dr Mahathir was asked after the swearing-in whether he was happy that Mr Anwar was an MP again. He said: "Of course I am happy. He is from the same (PH) party."

Mr Anwar told reporters: "I have said to Prime Minister Mahathir that I will only support and give my contribution through Parliament and parliamentary reforms, but of course I will interact with the ministers and MPs; that is part of the job of a Member of Parliament."

Questions about the succession plan are often presented to the two Malaysian political giants, as some have raised doubts that Dr Mahathir would indeed pass the baton to Mr Anwar, seen as the "prime minister in waiting". Mr Anwar was deputy prime minister in 1998 when Dr Mahathir sacked him.

Asked if he would take up any Cabinet position, Mr Anwar replied: "No. I stand by my earlier decision. I don't intend to serve in any position, and I am happy with this position." His wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Anwar's return as an MP is his third, in a tumultuous two decades that saw him jailed twice over two sodomy-linked cases. He was last imprisoned in 2015 and was released in May after a full royal pardon from the Malaysian King on May 16, a week after PH won the general election.

Political analyst James Chin of the University of Tasmania's Asia Institute did not foresee any problems with Mr Anwar working with his former foe. "They know if they don't handle the political relationship properly, it will be a one-term PH government," he said.

"Mahathir knows this is the only opportunity to recast himself as the man who saves Malaysia. Anwar knows this is the only opportunity for him to be PM. So, both will hold off fighting to meet each other's needs."

The PH government in the current Parliament session plans to carry out several reforms that it had promised in its election manifesto. These include a move to abolish the death penalty and a motion for MPs to declare their assets.

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