KUALA LUMPUR: Prime minister-designate Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has outlined plans for institutional reforms, including the review of affirmative action for bumiputra.
In an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review, the 71-yead-old former deputy prime minister said his role will encompass more once he is an elected lawmaker.
"I intend to be in Parliament the latest by October through a by-election.
"The decision to be active in Parliament is strategic, in a sense that you don't create an impression that I am trying to disturb and make things difficult for Dr Mahathir," Anwar said in the interview.
He also said he wanted to allow Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad a free hand in running the country.
Anwar added that he would like to play a "check-and-balance" role by looking at institutional reforms that include a review of the bumiputra policy, a set of affirmative action aimed at lifting the social welfare of Malays.
"The policy, which is race-based and (has been) abused to enrich cronies, has to stop," said Anwar.
Anwar said he wants the government to return to the policy's original objective of alleviating poverty among the bumiputra.
"The policy that helps the marginalised, minorities and bumiputras lagging behind has to continue not as a bumiputra policy, but as affirmative action," Anwar reiterated.
Besides the bumiputra policy review, Anwar said improvements could be made in state procurement and the fight against corruption by reforming the anti-graft agency into a truly independent body.
Anwar is supportive of Dr Mahathir's revision of Chinese-backed infrastructure projects but acknowledges the need to enhance Malaysia's relationship with the world's second-largest economy.
He also believes Dr Mahathir will keep his promise to hand over power.
"I trust him and there is no reason for me to question," he said, while acknowledging that some people are trying to create a wedge between them.
"As long as I continue to have a good rapport with him, it is all right," he added.
Anwar also advocates tolerance in the multi-ethnic country, which has increasingly turned conservative in recent years.
He blamed the previous Barisan Nasional led government for being "too soft" in trying to appease its support base among the Muslim conservatives.
Malaysian society, he said, must live with different beliefs and ways of life and must respect people who are different, including gays, bisexuals and transgenders.
"If people have their own sexual orientation, it is up to them," said Anwar, but added that the government will not recognise such partnerships legally, referring to same-sex marriage.