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Malaysian Vows to Push Reforms

Anwar, Now Free, Wants Fair Elections, Independent Judiciary

Associated Press
Saturday, September 4, 2004; Page A24

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Sept. 3 -- Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim vowed to push for democratic reforms in Malaysia, including freer news media, fair elections and an independent judiciary, as he savored his first full day of freedom in six years Friday after his conviction on sodomy charges was overturned.

In an interview from his home in an affluent Kuala Lumpur suburb, Anwar smiled, laughed and looked far more relaxed than during a tense appearance Thursday, when Malaysia's highest court reversed his conviction.

"It's an indescribable feeling to be among family and friends," said Anwar, who enjoyed a breakfast with his children and saw them off to school.

Anwar said he would never have been released from prison if his former boss, Mahathir Mohamad, was still in power. He praised Mahathir's successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, for allowing the ruling.

Anwar said his priority now was to push through reforms and that he would work with an opposition alliance that includes a party headed by his wife, Wan Azizah Ismail.

Anwar maintained that a "silent majority" supported him.

The ruling that freed him came exactly six years after Mahathir, a combative figure who transformed Malaysia into one of Asia's wealthiest countries but was long accused of dismissing democratic procedures, fired Anwar as his heir apparent in a power struggle.

Anwar then led anti-Mahathir demonstrations and was arrested on Sept. 18, 1998.


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