On his release, Anwar declares 'new dawn for Malaysia'

'Reformasi' leader freed from jail, says he will not serve in government for now

KUALA LUMPUR Mr Anwar Ibrahim declared a "new dawn for Malaysia" yesterday after his release from prison paved the way for a return to national politics as presumptive successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad following a stunning election upset.

In scenes that captivated Malaysians, the charismatic 70-year-old returned to the national spotlight after the country's king quashed a widely-criticised sodomy conviction that had put Mr Anwar behind bars for three years.

To ecstatic cries of Reformasi (Reform) - Mr Anwar's ralling cry - he vowed to hundreds of journalists, supporters and admiring prison guards to support the new government's efforts to clean up the country, AFP reported.

"Now there is a new dawn for Malaysia. I must thank the people of Malaysia," said Mr Anwar, flanked by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and other members of his political party.

"The entire spectrum of Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, have stood by the principles of democracy and freedom. They demand change."

Mr Anwar has cast a long shadow over Malaysian politics for decades.

The question now is how Mr Anwar will get along with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, his ally-turned-foe-turned-ally, and what role he will play in the new government.

But Mr Anwar said he would like to take time off with his family and did not intend to join the Cabinet any time soon.

He said he would support the government led by Dr Mahathir, in which his wife Wan Azizah is deputy prime minister.

"I've told Tun Mahathir, I don't need to serve in the Cabinet for now," Mr Anwar said.

He was only back as a citizen, reported The Star.

"I'll be taking time off to give a series of talks in Harvard, Georgetown and a few Muslim countries.

"I've given my assurance to Mahathir and Azizah that I'm here as a concerned citizen, with complete support for them to manage the affairs of the country," he said.

He added that this was on the understanding they were "committed with the reform agenda, beginning with the judiciary, media and the entire apparatus".

Mr Anwar said he had forgiven Dr Mahathir.

He was Dr Mahathir's deputy in the 1990s but fell out with his mentor during the Asian financial crisis.

He was sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi movement, challenging Dr Mahathir's government.

"I and Mahathir have buried the hatchet already, it was a long time ago," Mr Anwar said.

"I have forgiven him, he has proved his mettle. Why should I harbour any malice towards him?"