Dr M: Anwar not in government, can say what he wants

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Dr Mahathir said that Anwar was as free to speak about public matters as the rest of the country. — Reuters pic
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Dr Mahathir said that Anwar was as free to speak about public matters as the rest of the country. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is entitled to his opinions about the government just like any other member of the public, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The PM was responding to a Channel News Asia interviewer’s question on whether Anwar’s criticism of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng over sensational statements would cause friction within his administration.

Dr Mahathir said in the interview that Anwar was as free to speak about public matters as the rest of the country.

“(Anwar) is like everybody else, he can comment... make any comment. He’s not in the government,” he said.

“But generally, once we agree on something in the Cabinet, we stick to that decision, but others who are not in the Cabinet may make their own comments. They can say what they like. But we are the government,” he added.

Anwar said he had previously advised Lim about the gravity of his new position in the government and urged the latter to be discreet in making his public statements and exposes in order to avoid unsettling investors.

Lim responded saying he publicly disclosed such matters only on Dr Mahathir’s instructions.

In the interview with the Singapore-based media, Dr Mahathir also acknowledged his rocky relationships with his previous deputies including Anwar, whom he sacked in 1998.

However, Dr Mahathir said he would resign from his post this time around if there came a time when he could no longer work with Anwar or allies in the government.

“Well, there can be a fallout between me and many, many people. But I have always been able to stay and work with people who were against me.

“I was there for 22 years. I had a lot of people who were against me... but I managed. So, if I cannot manage, then I step down,” he said.

Anwar is Dr Mahathir’s anointed successor, but has so far been coy about his plans to assume the position and repeatedly insisted he was not in a hurry to return to Parliament.