Malaysia welcomes Anwar Ibrahim: ‘Free at last’

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    Anwar was jailed for five years in 2015 after being accused of sodomy, a charge he described as a politically motivated [Reuters]

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Several thousand supporters of de-facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim gathered at the headquarters of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s for his first public address since his release earlier on Wednesday.

    Anwar, who had spent the past two decades in and out of prison on what were alleged to be politically motivated charges, was been granted a full royal pardon by the Malaysian Agong (king).

    Cheering as they gathered, supporters began gathering before 10pm at Padang Timur, in front of Amcorp Mall, with Anwar himself arriving shortly after to address the crowd.

    “He is free at last. After 20 years it is finally over,” said Rosnee Othman, a 53-year-old businessman from Penang told Al Jazeera.

    “We know there are problems and challenges, but for now we have what we have been fighting for-BN has fallen, and Anwar is free.”

    Speaking to an ecstatic crowd, Anwar told the people what they had been longing to hear:

    “Where would I be without you? It is because of you I have been set free. If Najib had won, I would be on my way back to prison.

    “Enough of oppression, enough of corruption. Malaysia has entered into a new era.”

    Anwar thanked Mahathir Mohamad for his contribution to Pakatan’s victory.

    Anwar had been released on Wednesday following the granting of a full royal pardon, paving the way for Mahathir’s former enemy turned political ally to eventually take over as prime minister.

    He had an audience with the king an hour later to convey his gratitude then returned to his home in Segambut before arriving tonight to address supporters.

    Civil servant Siti Amalina, 28, said she had come from Putrajaya with other family members to hear him speak.

    “We were cautious before when talking about politics, but with his (Anwar) release, we are free to speak our minds.

    “I came to hear first hand the promise of change that Pakatan (opposition coalition) has been talking about … I came to hear it directly from him,” she added.

    Another audience member, 64-year-old Lee Sim Kuan from Pahang, was more guarded, expressing concern over how quickly the new government would be able to bring much-needed reforms.

    “We have Tun Mahathir, we have Anwar, and there are other big names working on the same side now.

    “I happy like everyone else here but I hope that they will put any differences aside and work for the country’s benefit.

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    “We fought too hard to get here, and the whole country will be disappointed if things do not go smoothly,” he said.

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