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Anwar says ready to face 'corrupt leaders' as criticism grows over moves to free Najib, Zahid

The prime minister says he is ready to fight those who plunder the nation's wealth but stops short of specifics.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim yesterday said he was ready to bear the consequences of fighting corrupt leaders, but stopped short of making specific references to recent development surrounding his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamid and jailed former leader Najib Razak.

Anwar said he would not compromise in the fight against leaders who plunder the nation's wealth.

"That is my pledge, for better or worse, I will face it. If you want to bring me down because I fight corruption, by all means, but I am never going to compromise when it comes to cleaning up the country and saving the people from those who rob the nation," he was quoted as saying by Bernama at a breaking of fast event at his constituency in Tambun.

This comes as criticism grows over a fresh bid by Umno leaders to seek a royal pardon for Najib, who is serving time in jail over his SRC International corruption charges involving tens of millions of ringgit.

Meanwhile, the corruption trial of Zahid, the Umno president who was instrumental in committing his party's support to Anwar's bid for the top office last year, was postponed yesterday after government lawyers told the court they had been instructed not to challenge the application by the defence.

The court was also told that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was "further investigating" new evidence as lawyers wrote to the attorney-general asking for the 47 charges against Zahid to be dropped.

This came days after the revelation that law minister Azalina Othman Said had updated Najib's lawyers on the status of MACC's investigation into judge Mohd Nazlan Ghazali, who convicted the former leader in 2020.

In the letter, Azalina confirmed to lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah that MACC had found Nazlan to be in conflict of interest when presiding over the case.

News of the revelation angered civil society activists and lawyers, who also criticised the attorney-general's silence.

"... The attorney-general is himself a former Federal Court judge and must surely appreciate the devastating effect of his silence upon the judiciary and the sanctity of the administration of justice," said a joint statement by lawyers.

Others also questioned Anwar's silence as his political allies attacked the judge.

"The judiciary, a vital national institution, one of the pillars of our democracy, is under attack and the prime minister remains a mute witness," former Malaysian ambassador Dennis Ignatius wrote in a commentary.

"Is there no moral outrage from the man who has made good governance his middle name? Is the prime minister okay with this conspiracy to defame judges and undermine the judiciary?" 

Yesterday, an MP from Anwar's PKR warned that any move by the prime minister to back the applications by Najib and Zahid would have disastrous consequences for his administration at the upcoming state polls.

Anwar and the attorney-general are both part of the Pardons Board that will consider the application from Najib.

Analysts say Anwar's government, which needs Umno's support to remain in power, will be affected regardless of the outcome of the appeal.