Anwar -- traitor or victim?
Straits Times Interactive Friday,
September 4 1998
Mahathir decided to sack his No 2 after satisfying
himself that his deputy was unfit to lead, say
sources close to the Prime Minister
FOR nearly a year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Dr Mahathir Mohamad refused to believe that
his hand-picked successor was involved in immoral
He scolded a Cabinet minister and chased him
out of the office for bringing news of unsubstantiated
allegations and gossip.
Says an aide: "The minister was his close aide for
over 15 years but he just dismissed him."
When a widely-circulated poison-pen letter detailing
his deputy's inappropriate behaviour was making
the rounds, he ordered the police to arrest its author
and others believed to be behind it.
Publicly, he rubbished the allegations and told
delegates at the Umno general assembly last year
to stop believing slander.
The turning point came when several people,
including a high-ranking executive of a public-listed
company, came forward with allegations about
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's homosexuality and
They put their names to affidavits despite being
warned by police that they could be charged
under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
To satisfy himself, Dr Mahathir spoke to each
of the seven witnesses alone, hoping to pick
out discrepancies in their testimonies.
Said the aide: "He was shocked at the vivid details
and their unwavering decision to stick to their
stories despite being challenged."
One witness alleged that the Deputy Prime Minister
had unnatural sex with him.
Another said his wife became the target of Datuk
Anwar's amorous advances.
These same witnesses recounted their stories on
Tuesday night at a hush-hush gathering of chief
ministers and mentris besar at the Prime Minister's
According to senior Umno officials, the chief
ministers also heard a tape recording of a flirtatious
conversation between Datuk Anwar, who is married
with six children, and the wife of a divisional Umno
The party leaders hold considerable sway on the
ground and will be instrumental in convincing party
members that Dr Mahathir was left with no choice
but to sack his deputy.
They were also briefed on classified documents
found at the residence and office of Magnum director
S. Nallakaruppan, an Anwar associate.
Sources said history weighed heavily on the Premier's
mind and stopped him from moving earlier against
Two deputy prime ministers, Tan Sri Musa Hitam
and Tun Ghaffar Baba, left government under a
cloud of controversy. Said another Mahathir aide:
"He said that people would point their finger at him
and say that it is Dr Mahathir who cannot work with
his DPMs. That is why his No 2s always resign."
The 72-year-old leader was also mindful that his
No 2 had built up considerable influence and a
support base in the party since being persuaded
to join Umno in 1982.
Over the years, the former student radical who was
held under the ISA in the 70s for masterminding
demonstrations has wowed many with his oratory
and deep understanding of Islam.
His moderate lifestyle and background as a Muslim
leader also went down very well with the party rank
At the end of the day, it was his public posture as
a leader of high moral standing which also cost him
Dr Mahathir told his inner circle that it was
untenable for "someone who has been groomed to
be the leader of Malaysia" to have these tendencies.
So untenable that he cancelled his trip to the Non-
Aligned Movement meeting in South Africa this
week because he could not stand the idea of
appointing him as the Acting Prime Minister.
An aide to Dr Mahathir said: "Do you actually
think that he cancelled the trip because he was tired?
"His schedule at home over the last few days has
been more taxing.
"A leader who preaches from the pulpit and then
does these things cannot hold the reins of power."
It is believed that Umno power brokers Education
Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Foreign
Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi threw their
lot behind Dr Mahathir after listening to the evidence.
Datuk Najib's aide told The Straits Times: "Mahathir
put his name and reputation on the line when he
brought Anwar into the party.
"He put his reputation on the line when he promoted
"He put his reputation on the line by sacking him.
He has much to lose. That is good enough for Datuk
Datuk Anwar's aides scoff at the idea that
Dr Mahathir acted with a heavy heart.
They said a plan was hatched a few months ago
to discredit the No 2 and force him out of government.
The turning point came at a Johor Umno convention
on Sibu Island where Datuk Anwar made his now-
infamous speech, warning Malaysia could go down
the road of Indonesia if political reforms were not
His camp said this speech spooked Dr Mahathir, who
feared a Suharto-type overthrow was being planned.
To make matters worse, there were widespread
rumours that 30 Umno MPs sympathetic to Datuk
Anwar were going to ask the Premier to resign.
Matters came to a head at the Umno general
Datuk Anwar's attempts to undermine Dr Mahathir's
Attacks by his allies on alleged corruption and
nepotism in the government were viewed as a
direct assault on Dr Mahathir.
That sparked almost immediate retaliation.
In rapid succession, the Premier reduced his
deputy's influence in government.
He appointed his trusted lieutenant, Tun Daim
Zainuddin, as a special-functions minister and
forced the resignation of two powerful newspaper
editors known to be Anwar loyalists.
Around the same time, his deputy was confronted
with renewed accusations of sexual misconduct.
His aides say the plan to remove him was drawn
up once "fear had been created by some parties"
that he was going to mount a challenge to
Dr Mahathir's presidency of the party next year.
They say party veterans went around the country
sullying his reputation by accusing him of being
an immoral leader.
At a closed-door session in Kota Baru recently, a
party veteran said while Muslims could take up
to four wives if they were not satisfied with one,
they should not have relations with another man.
Others blamed Datuk Anwar's economic policies
for the severe contraction of the economy. Said
an aide on Wednesday night:
"We saw the build-up. It was just a matter of time.
Our people were being questioned by police. All
sorts of pressure."
At the press conference yesterday, Datuk Anwar
also suggested he was a pawn in a well thought-out
He said now that currency controls were in place
and the economy insulated, it was safe for his
enemies to move against him.
In this way,there would be minimal effect on the
economy when news of his sacking became known
in the international market.
"I was not prepared to resign as I was already
aware of a pact or conspiracy at the highest level
to ruin me, " he said.
Copyright ) 1998 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.
All rights reserved.