'Enormous' potential for Malaysia and Turkey

By Hasan Mekki and Abdulcebbar Ebu Ras

ANKARA (AA) – Many areas of possible cooperation exist between Turkey and Malaysia, with "enormous" potential for both countries, said the head of the largest party in Malaysia’s ruling coalition, widely known as the country's premier-in-waiting.

"We are clearly committed to enhancing [political interaction and commitment]," said Anwar Ibrahim, who leads Malaysia’s People’s Justice Party, and is slated to assume the premiership two years from now, when current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad steps down.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Anwar said traditional structures have slowed the development of ties between Ankara and Kuala Lumpur, while relations such as investment and tourism are nonetheless flourishing.

One of the areas of potential cooperation he identified is the use of local currencies in bilateral commerce.

"We are dictated by the international financial architecture, and dollar denominations, and this has caused havoc in many of our countries," he added, pointing to price determination and reducing dependence on the dollar as priorities for bilateral engagements in this context.

Recently freed from prison via a royal pardon from Malaysia’s king, Anwar underlined that his country is now "more democratic" and would focus on ethical governance.

"The country has an extremely bright future," said Anwar, who is also the husband of current Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

– Undemocratic global structure

Asked about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s proposed reforms to the UN Security Council, Anwar said the international body was undemocratic and "stuck in a World War II mentality.”

"What President Erdogan has been promoting should be [a] concern for all," he said, adding that Malaysia is among the countries supporting the proposed reforms" based on justice and fairness."

Erdogan has long advocated reforming the structure of the Security Council, using the motto: "The world is bigger than five."

Praising Turkey's international diplomatic and relief policies for groups including the Palestinians, Rohingya, and Syrian refugees, Anwar said Turkey has "emerged as the voice of conscience for the Muslim world and also for developing countries.”

Arguing against the way some countries fail to give these persecuted peoples their due, he urged Muslim governments worldwide to "state their cause" in the global arena and remain "firm" in their decisions.

Anwar cited the U.S.’ "unfortunate" recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the "barbaric" killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as issues which concern the international community.

Noting that most countries have rallied against the killing of Khashoggi, Anwar said the personal position of U.S. President Donald Trump on the issue is not relevant.

"The American media has been positive [in its stance] and politicians, political leaders both from [the] Republican Party and Democrats have been quite positive, and I think we’ve got to go from there," he said.

– Good relations with China

While touting Malaysia’s relations with Beijing, Anwar identified issues such as funding for the stalled east coast rail line project as areas of minor contention.

However, he described China as an "important economy," advocating for increased trade and investment between Kuala Lumpur and its larger neighbor.

He added that Malaysia should utilize the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing to "ensure that Malaysia has a place to be able to attract investments from both China and the United States."

– Who is Anwar Ibrahim?

In 1998, Anwar, then an ambitious deputy prime minister and finance minister, was sacked by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad after he was accused of several charges, later getting a jail term.

He spent six years in prison before the Supreme Court overturned the conviction and released him in 2004.

After a ban on holding any public office expired in 2008, he reentered politics in his country.

During the 2013 general election, he was the leader of the opposition coalition — People’s Alliance coalition (People's Pact) — composed of three political parties.

The Anwar-led People's Pact won 50.87 percent of the popular vote, but was unable to form a federal government as it failed to form a majority in parliament in what Anwar dubbed the "worst electoral fraud in our history.”

Anwar was again sent behind bars in 2015 by a court and was released shortly after general elections were held last May, in which the Mahathir-led opposition coalition — supported by Anwar — won against then Prime Minister Najib Razak's government.

This September, Anwar, now 71, returned to parliament by winning a by-election.

Mahathir Mohamad, 93, who has pledged to step down as premier within two years, also said he was pleased to see Anwar’s return.