Malaysia’s Anwar confident PM handover will go as planned

Former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim speaks at the Singapore Summit in Singapore on September 15, 2018. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018

Malaysia’s Anwar confident PM handover will go as planned

  • Anwar and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad put aside their 20-year feud to help their four-party alliance win elections in May
  • The government has clamped down on corruption by making the country’s anti-corruption body accountable to Parliament instead of just the prime minister

SINGAPORE: Malaysia’s designated prime minister-in-waiting, Anwar Ibrahim, said Saturday that he has no reason to doubt his former political nemesis will hand over the leadership position within two years as planned after sorting out deep-seated issues like corruption.
Anwar and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad put aside their 20-year feud to help their four-party alliance win elections in May, leading to the country’s first change of power since independence from Britain in 1957.
Anwar, 70, was convicted of sodomy in 2015 in a case that he said was politically motivated. He was freed and pardoned by the king shortly after the recent elections.
The alliance had agreed that Mahathir would be prime minister and then hand over the reins to Anwar. On Saturday, Anwar said that contesting a by-election after a lawmaker from his party resigned earlier in the week was “well within the plan” of his eventual succession, but that he was in no rush to take over.
“I think the succession plan is as agreed,” Anwar said. “Let Prime Minister Mahathir conduct the affairs of the state. We support him, that’s important. And I don’t think we should be rushing to it, because he’s playing a very critical role for the country.”
“The country needs stability and a strong leader now and I want to make sure that he is effective in his position,” he added.
Anwar spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the Singapore Summit, which was attended by business leaders and academics from Asia.
He said he has a close relationship with Mahathir and sees no reason to doubt his sincerity, given how he has acted in the four months since the historic electoral victory.
The government has clamped down on corruption by making the country’s anti-corruption body accountable to Parliament instead of just the prime minister, Anwar said.
It also has recovered millions from the $4.5 billion that reportedly was misappropriated from the indebted 1MDB Malaysian state investment fund, he added.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is facing seven charges of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering involving the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.2 million) into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund.
Mahathir, 93, has endorsed Anwar’s move to contest the by-election and said he would not renege on his promise to hand over power, despite not having settled on a date.
A by-election will be held in the southern coastal town of Port Dickson after a lawmaker from Anwar’s party resigned to make way for his comeback. The Election Commission will set a date for the vote, which must be held within two months.


Britain set for long lockdown as death toll rises to 4,313

Updated 04 April 2020

Britain set for long lockdown as death toll rises to 4,313

  • The government has put Britain into a widespread shutdown, closing pubs, restaurants and nearly all shops, while ordering people to stay home
  • The peak of new cases could come within a week or 10 days, scientists said

LONDON: Britain is unlikely to lift its stringent lockdown rules until the end of May, once the spread of the coronavirus has started to slow, a leading government adviser said on Saturday as the death toll rose to 4,313.
The government has put Britain into a widespread shutdown, closing pubs, restaurants and nearly all shops, while ordering people to stay home unless absolutely essential to venture out.
The order is designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which has almost 42,000 confirmed cases. But some experts have started to question whether the shuttering of the economy will cost more lives in the long run.
“We want to move to a situation where at least by the end of May we’re able to substitute some less intensive measures, more based on technology and testing, for the complete lockdown we have now,” Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio.
Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 20% to 4,313 by Friday afternoon with 708 new fatalties recorded, the health ministry said. That compared to a 23% rise on Thursday.
The peak of new cases could come within a week or 10 days, Ferguson said, but adherence to the strict rules will determine how quickly the rate of infections decline after that.
“It is quite finely balanced at the current time,” he said, adding that Britain could have quite high levels of infection for “weeks and weeks” if people start to socialize.
Britain initially took a restrained approach to the outbreak but Prime Minister Boris Johnson changed tack and imposed stringent social-distancing measures after Ferguson’s modelling showed a quarter of a million people in the country could die.
The response has since been hampered by a lack of ventilators and an inability to carry out mass testing to determine whether the public, and particularly health workers, have built up an immunity.
Johnson, who has been in self-isolation after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, has invited opposition party leaders to a briefing next week with medical advisers, including the new leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer.
“As party leaders we have a duty to work together at this moment of national emergency,” he said.
Painted to a corner’
Some are questioning the long-term strategy.
A second senior government adviser, the chief pandemic modeller Graham Medley, said he feared Britain had painted itself into a corner, with no clear exit from a strategy that would damage the economic and mental well-being of many people.
Almost one million people have applied for welfare benefits in just two weeks in Britain, according to official data that shows the economy is set for a depression that could be worse than the slump in the 1930s.
“If we carry on with lockdown it buys us more time, we can get more thought put into it, but it doesn’t resolve anything — it’s a placeholder,” Medley told the Times newspaper.
“We’ve kind of painted ourselves into a corner, because then the question will be, what do we do now? In broad terms are we going to continue to harm children to protect vulnerable people, or not?“
Health Minister Matt Hancock has set a goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month, a tenfold increase that industry leaders have questioned due to shortages of equipment. It is also considering immunity certificates.
Separately the government said it would free prisoners who were deemed to be low risk and were within weeks of release.