It was wrong of me to sack Anwar, says Dr Mahathir

This picture taken on December 6, 2016 shows Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad pausing during an interview with AFP at his office in Putrajaya.

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia's former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said if he could turn back time and choose again, he might not sack his then deputy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

In an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily at his office in Putrajaya, the 92-year-old ex-premier said he should not have followed the law completely.

He said he made the wrong decision by going by the law completely, adding that he should not have taken the action against Anwar.

"From the political point of view, I would not have done this. When I was the prime minister, I promised myself not to do anything that would make people hate me."

Dr Mahathir, who is now the chairman of opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, said he had no choice back then, as the police had presented all the evidences to him.

He said if he were a dictator as many would call him, he could have put Mr Anwar in jail directly instead of giving him a trial.

"I was angry with the police. I asked them why they didn't give him a trial. They didn't tell me initially but later said they had given him a 'black eye'.

"But I insisted that he be given a trial."

Dr Mahathir also said he only had the power to sack Mr Anwar as deputy prime minister and finance minister, and it was Umno supreme council's collective decision to sack Mr Anwar as the party's deputy president.

"We had a supreme council meeting until 4am. Everyone had a chance to speak. They not only didn't want him to be deputy president, they also didn't want him in the party.

"It was not my decision," he added.

Following his dismissal, Mr Anwar was jailed in 1999 after being found guilty of corruption.