(File pix) PAN deputy president Salahuddin Ayub explains opposition’s ‘eagerness’ to name Anwar as PM candidate. (pix by NURUL SHAFINA JEMNEON)

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Harapan leaders were eager to name jailed opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as its prime minister candidate due to his contribution to the opposition coalition.

Parti Amanah Negara deputy president Salahuddin Ayub said this in response to a comment by human rights activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, who recently said that opposition leaders were doing a “terrible disservice” to Anwar by being overly enthusiastic on the topic.

Salahuddin said, while Pakatan Harapan respected the opinions expressed by various quarters, the opposition pact made the decision based on Anwar’s role and contribution since the 1990s.

“When we named Anwar, we didn’t have any personal (gains) or other intention. It was all because of his contributions since the ‘reformasi’ days.

“Anwar’s readiness in accepting Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) as part of our pact also shows that he has a big heart,” he told a press conference at PAN headquarters here today.

Ambiga last Saturday said the opposition leaders’ eagerness in naming Anwar as the PM-designate gave the impression that all he wanted was to secure his spot for the top post.

Last month, during the PKR National Congress, party leaders had named Anwar as their prime minister designate with Pakatan Harapan leaders including DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang and PAN president Mohamad Sabu holding placards bearing the words "Anwar as the 7th PM".

However, PPBM chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin refrained from doing so, which sparked speculation that the duo disagreed with the opposition's choice.

Dr Mahathir in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review recently said he would not mind taking over the premiership again if “friends” in the opposition pact saw fit to ask.

This prompted Anwar to say that it was not Dr Mahathir's place to unilaterally decide who should be the pact's choice for prime minister.

Anwar is currently serving a five-year sentence for sodomising his former aide. Malaysia’s laws prevent him from contesting in an election or holding a political position for five years after his release, which will be in 2020.

Anwar was deputy prime minister and heir apparent to Dr Mahathir in the 1990s, until he was booted out of the government and Umno following allegations of corruption and sexual misconduct.

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