World

Anwar’s journey to leading Malaysia a roller-coaster ride

KUALA LUMPUR Mr Anwar Ibrahim's release from prison marks yet another dramatic turn in a roller-coaster political life.

He was freed yesterday after serving three years for a sodomy conviction widely viewed as politically motivated, and now quashed in the wake of the stunning defeat of a regime that ruled for six decades.

Mr Anwar's political triumphs and legal tribulations have riveted and appalled Malaysians since the 1990s, when he soared to national power as a talented deputy prime minister.

His hopes of leading the nation now look as strong as ever, with 92-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad signalling he will yield to Mr Anwar in one of the great turnabouts in Asian politics.

Just three years ago, Mr Anwar's career seemed finished, once again, when he was jailed on charges of sodomising a young male aide - the second time he had faced such charges.

"Going to jail, I consider (that) a sacrifice I make for the people of this country," he said at the time.

"I have fought most of my life on behalf of the people of this country - for the people, I am willing to go to jail or face any other consequence."

In his four-decade career, Mr Anwar has changed his political colours with the readiness of a chameleon in an ambitious pursuit of leadership in the country.

He first rose to prominence in the 1970s as a radical Islamic student leader, taking part in protests over rural hunger that earned the first of his three jail terms.

He was held for 20 months under a draconian security law.

He later joined the ruling Umno and eventually caught the eye of Dr Mahathir.

Mr Anwar rose quickly, heading various ministries.

His ascension to deputy prime minister all but anointed him as Malaysia's future leader.

But differences with Dr Mahathir over the 1998 Asian financial crisis spiralled into a bitter rift as Mr Anwar called for reform and an end to Umno corruption and nepotism.

He was seen to have misplayed his hand, and he was sacked and charged with corruption and sodomy.

In a drama that earned worldwide scorn, Mr Anwar was brought into court with a black eye after a beating from the country's police chief.

Jailed for six years, Mr Anwar said he was kept in solitary confinement, singing 1960s pop tunes to stay sane and reading anything he could get.

Released in poor health in 2004, he spent a few years working as an academic.

He eventually joined the anti-government movement, using his star power to unite a divided and cowed opposition.

Their alliance capitalised on rising anger over corruption and Umno oppression to shock the regime in 2008 and 2013 polls.

The former government of now disgraced Najib Razak was keenly aware of Mr Anwar's appeal, and the latest sodomy charge dogged the latter through a lengthy trial that culminated in his jailing in 2015.

But in a twist, Dr Mahathir came out of retirement.

The public responded, throwing out Umno in a landslide, and putting Mr Anwar on course to finally achieve his dream of leading Malaysia. - AFP

WORLD