One day he is in prison. The next, Anwar Ibrahim is Malaysia’s leader-in-waiting.
In a historic week in Malaysian politics that shocked the nation, the ruling party was kicked out of office after more than 60 years in power.
Mahathir Mohamad, a 92-year-old former prime minister, is again the country’s leader – for now.
But he promised to hand over the leadership to the country’s most famous former political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim – a former ally turned foe who critics say Mahathir helped put in prison on trumped-up charges.
Together this unlikely alliance has vowed to restore Malaysia’s reputation and rule of law – revising fake news laws, ending crippling taxation, and investigating allegations of massive corruption by the previous regime.
101 East spoke to Anwar Ibrahim ahead of Malaysia’s “new dawn”.
Al Jazeera: How does it feel to be a free man?
Anwar supporters condemn Malaysian court verdict
Anwar Ibrahim: As I’ve said, only when one experiences incarceration would one really appreciate freedom, or one earlier period, like one’s colonised, and then become free. Here you are completely cut off from the outside world.
AJ: You did a deal to work with Dr Mahathir – the man who sacked you, jailed you and called you ‘morally unfit to govern’. How can you trust him?
AI: That was 20 years ago. Things have passed and there are some considerations to protect, to save the country from endemic corruption, sliding downwards. He came and sought some sort of reconciliation, to make amends.
So I as a Muslim, as a human being, take it in a positive light. It’s always that principle that anyone wants to make peace with you, you should accept in the right spirit. But can we trust? It took time. It was a very painful decision. It was a tough decision.
I told him in fact in our meetings, I used to tell him, you know, I used to call him doc, doctor. But now I call him Tun. You know Tun it’s very very tough. Very difficult. And more difficult for the family too. But we have accepted. And he has also proven his mantle.
He was consistent, he has called for my release. He facilitated the process of release, which of course people say it’s just technical. It’s true. But then he did facilitate. So I think I have no reason not to trust.
AJ: Are you willing to do a deal with anyone to regain power?
AI: The principle is the agenda. If one is committed to reform, one’s committed to end injustice, one’s committed to ensure that, to stop cronyism and oppression of the masses.
Then who am I, it’s not Anwar as a person who should decide or dictate. It’s the people. In the last transformation as we have seen, it’s the decision of the people, not even Mahathir or Anwar or the parties.
It’s the people that suddenly realised it’s time to change from this obsolete corrupt order to a new inde