Malaysian Government Initiates Royal Inquiry into Mahathir’s Controversial Decision: Anwar Ibrahim Faces Scrutiny

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) in Malaysia will investigate former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to withdraw from a review of a territorial dispute with Singapore, which he made shortly after taking office in 2018, according to the Chief Secretary of the Malaysian government. This move comes after considerable tensions between Mahathir and his rival Anwar Ibrahim, who recently became the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Such inquiries are rare in Malaysia and hold significant authority to subpoena witnesses.

The upcoming inquiry will mark only the 14th in Malaysia’s history since gaining independence in 1957. Previous inquiries have delved into major issues such as the discovery of mass graves of undocumented migrants along the Malaysia-Thailand border in 2015 and the injuries sustained by Anwar while under police custody in 1999. Mahathir’s lawyer, Rafique Rasyid, claims that this probe is politically motivated by Anwar.

The divide between Mahathir and Anwar dates back to 1998 when Anwar was fired from his position as Malaysia’s deputy prime minister due to a falling-out with Mahathir, who was the premier at the time. Anwar was subsequently imprisoned on charges of sodomy, which he maintains were fabricated. Critics argue that Anwar, now prime minister, seeks revenge against Mahathir and his associates, particularly targeting Mahathir’s son Mirzan Mahathir and his close ally, former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, amidst recent corruption investigations.

The inquiry is set to begin in February, after the appointment of the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, as Malaysia’s 17th king. Sultan Ibrahim has been an outspoken critic of Mahathir’s decision to withdraw from the review, as it directly affects the state of Johor, where the disputed territory lies. In the past, the monarch has voiced his disappointment, claiming that Mahathir made the decision without consulting Johor, which led him to question the relevance of the Federation agreement that established Malaysia.

Law Minister Azalina Othman Said emphasized Anwar’s concern for sovereignty as the reason behind the inquiry. The Malaysian government wants to prevent a repeat of what happened with Pedra Branca, the disputed territory, which caused tensions between Malaysia and Singapore.

The dispute between Mahathir and Anwar intensifies as allegations of settling scores arise with each corruption investigation. The anti-corruption agency recently ordered Mahathir’s son to declare his assets, adding to the mounting pressure on the former prime minister. Analysts attribute this clash to Mahathir’s refusal to participate in the earlier inquiry, calling it his own fault.

As Malaysia prepares for the RCI inquiry, it remains to be seen how this will further divide the country’s political landscape and potentially influence Mahathir’s legacy.