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Malaysia Muslim Youth Movement - Anwar Sacking "Conspiracy"
 
KUALA LUMPUR (Dow Jones)--The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM)
condemned Friday the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim as
finance minister and deputy finance minister as a political conspiracy.
 
"Definitely this shocking decision will create a political crisis, the
last thing that the country needs in view of the economic turmoil
we are facing now," a faxed statement from the movement's president,
Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman, said.
 
"Whatever reasons behind the sacking of Anwar, they have to be proven
with sound evidence and full transparency. We believe this
decision is not only a big mistake but a national disaster."
 
Ahmad Azam's statement is the strongest show of support for the
embattled Anwar so far, even though the group is closely linked to
him.
 
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday stripped Anwar of both his
cabinet posts after months of wrangling over economic
policy. Late Thursday, Anwar was expelled from Malaysia's dominant
political party, the United Malays National Organization.
 
Several hundred supporters turned out to offer him support.
 
Earlier Friday, Anwar told the Associated Press that it was "just a
matter of time" before he is arrested on allegations of sexual
misconduct.
 
Moreover, Anwar said Thursday that the tumult of rumors alleging
everything from sodomy to treason only started at UMNO's annual
assembly in June.
 
"How is it that these arose just when I was preparing to challenge the
president of the party?" Anwar asked. The ousted minister
was widely expected to challenge Mahathir for the UMNO presidency, and
hence the prime minister's post, in party elections next
year.
 
In an affidavit filed in High Court on Wednesday, Malaysia's Inspector
General of Police Rahim Noor said Anwar was under
investigation on charges contained in a book that has sweeping claims
about sexual misconduct.
 
On Thursday, Rahim filed an affidavit at the High Court in the case of
S. Nallakaruppan, who has been detained on weapons
charges. Nalla, as he is known, is Anwar's tennis partner and in the
book is alleged to have arranged the ousted minister's sexual
trysts.
 
In the document, Rahim said Nalla was "believed to have access to
national secrets through Anwar and he likely could leak these
national secrets."
 
The affidavit said that Nalla and Anwar could face charges under the
Internal Security Act and the Official Secrets Act.
 

Mahathir Dominates Policy
 
Speaking in public on Anwar's sacking for the first time in the early
hours of Friday morning, Mahathir claimed he was saddened by
events.
 
"I wish it hadn't happened, not at this point," he told reporters. "But
these things have gone out of my control."
 
Mahathir is now in firm control of the economy. He will be taking on
Anwar's role as acting finance minister at a time when
Malaysia's economy is in the midst of worst crisis since independence 41
years ago.
 
Economists fear the economy will contract by at least 5% year-on-year in
1998, a far cry from the 8%-plus growth rates Malaysia
has been basking in over the past decade. In the second quarter, the
gross domestic product shrank 6.8%.
 
That prompted Mahathir to push through sweeping capital controls earlier
this week which effectively fixed the ringgit (MYR) at
MYR3.80 to the dollar. But that was against the advice of the central
bank.
 
The burning question now is what degree of support Anwar will be able to
muster, not just among the UMNO rank and file, but also
among ordinary Malaysians.
 
The government-controlled press has used the sordid allegations to rail
against Anwar. Headlines like "Anwar Sodomized Me 15
Times" abound in Friday's newspapers, despite Anwar's plea for fair
treatment Thursday.
 
Anwar claimed that there is "a conspiracy at the highest levels of
government", and Ahmad Azam took that a step further.
 
"The conspiracy is no longer limited to a circle of party stalwarts in
UMNO. The tamed media has joined the government's
bandwagon in the merciless attack against Anwar," his statement said.
"Where, normally, a public figure has to be charged in any
court of law first before one's removal from office can be considered,
Anwar's case happened to be the other way around."
 
"But the dubious strategy of his political enemies, tarnishing his image
with slander and character assassination through poison pen
letters and books has badly insulted him. They have to silence Anwar by
all means for their Pandora's Box to remain safely sealed,"
the Muslim Youth leader said.
 
However, other former backers appear wavering in their support for
Anwar. Influential UMNO Youth leader Zahid Hamid Thursday
declared his support for Mahathir, although he later turned up to stand
by Anwar's side at his dramatic news conference.

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