Anwar back on the path to redemption
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Ex-deputy and his co-accused bask in media limelight
In a sign that Malaysia's political landscape may be changing, mainstream newspapers that had previously ignored opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim yesterday gave him prominent coverage.
The rare glimpse of the former deputy prime minister was seen as yet another small victory in a campaign by Mr Anwar to return to national politics.
The front page of the mass- circulation The Star daily carried a large photograph of Mr Anwar's adopted brother, Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja, arms akimbo and looking pleased, outside a superior court that had ruled on Wednesday as 'coerced and inadmissible' his 1999 confession to Mr Anwar sodomising him, and ordered a retrial.
On page three, the daily published a photograph of a smartly dressed Mr Anwar standing beside Mr Sukma, who had consistently maintained that he was tortured into confessing.
'This judgment and the media coverage is significant and signals that Mr Anwar is back on the national political stage,' said Tian Chua, a senior member of Mr Anwar's National People's Party.
'It has been a long and hard struggle for Anwar ... his pariah status might be over,' Mr Chua said. Political analysts also said the much-publicised recent falling out between former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and his successor Abdullah Badawi was a potential political windfall for Mr Anwar as rival factions began to court him for support.
'Abdullah is weak and with Dr Mahathir attacking, the prime minister needs all the help he can get. Anwar can prop up Abdullah, especially with the Malay grass roots,' said Ramasamy Palanisamy, visiting professor at University of Kassel in Germany.
'The Mahathir-Abdullah split is serious and probably permanent, and there are a lot of realignments among power brokers. Anwar, with his charisma and grass-roots influence, is ideally placed to help Abdullah. Abdullah can rehabilitate Anwar and get him a pardon in return for political support.'
Mr Anwar, who is touring Sarawak state in east Malaysia, has not expressed support for Mr Abdullah but neither has he criticised him.
'He is guarded and is watching. What counts is not expression of support but winning over Umno [United Malays National Organisation] leaders and the Malay grass roots,' said Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the independent Malaysia Today news website.
'Anwar is a potential ally for Abdullah in the fight with Dr Mahathir but there are also risks in turning to Anwar.
'He is no political pushover; Abdullah might believe he can handle Anwar but the truth is Anwar is hard to handle. Anwar might aim for Abdullah's job.'