THURSDAY, 23 MAY 2002

Malaysia's Anwar says time may heal Mahathir rift

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's jailed former finance minister Anwar Ibrahim yesterday refused to write off the chance of reconciliation with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but said he will not compromise his campaign for reform.
"Time is a great healer and bears no malice," Anwar, who is serving 15 years for sodomy and abuse of power, said in a written answer to whether he could again work with Mahathir.
"Nonetheless, I am committed to the struggle for democracy and justice; to combat corruption and cronyism. I will not sacrifice those ideals," he said in answer to questions given to him by a journalist during a court appearance in March.
His lawyer yesterday released a transcript of Anwar's answer, which were penned in the last few days.
Anwar was sacked after mounting a challenge to Mahathir at the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, and he began the Reformasi movement to overhaul Malaysia's judicial system and law enforcement agencies.
The humiliation of his one-time heir apparent cost Mahathir the support of ethnic Malays at the last election, when less than half voted for him.
The veteran prime minister still won a two-thirds majority, thanks to support from the Chinese and Indian minorities who distrusted Anwar's alliance with a conservative Islamic party.
Recent by-election and state election results show the 76-year-old Mahathir turning the tide, while Anwar has become an increasingly marginalised figure.
"I dread to imagine having to languish in jail as designed by Mahathir," Anwar, who maintains he is the victim of a political conspiracy, said.
He is still awaiting a Federal Court verdict from a panel of judges on an appeal against the abuse of power conviction, which carried a six-year sentence. No date has yet been given for a resumption of the hearing.
The US State Department describes Anwar's trials as flawed, but criticism has been muted since following Mahathir's support for the US-led war on terror.
This month Mahathir visited the White House after being earlier shunned by the United States.