Flashback: “I put Anwar in jail because he tried to overthrow me” – Mahathir

M.G.G. Pillai

On former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the ally who was ultimately sacked, arrested, beaten in jail by the police chief and, finally, convicted on corruption charges: “He tried to overthrow me. He’s the one who turned the issue into a political problem. The fact is he couldn’t accept that he’s not the first minister to be removed. Others have been removed and found guilty by the courts, even of murder.” — David Lamb of the Los Angeles Times, quoting the Prime Minister for a profile on him

The Prime Minister, for the first time, admitted that his erstwhile deputy is where he is because “he tried to overthrow me”; something most suspected but could never prove. Until now. “He’s the one who turned it into a political problem”. It follows then that what happened to the hapless Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim was the result of a sustained political retaliation, his insistence that he is a victim of a political conspiracy rings true by the day. One would have thought the Prime Minister could keep his mouth shut about such things, but it is an axiom unchallenged in Bolehland that the young Caucasian stranger before him is the right person to unburden your problems, taking him into his confidence more than he would his own advisers. So, the Los Angeles native would get to know of these things which Malaysians would not. Unless Bernama decides that the article is so unfair that it should be attacked, without revealing what it is that caused the upset.

The Los Angeles Times profile of the Prime Minister, fawning and uncritical, with the reporter getting access to his inner circle — and therefore the “balance” expected is just not there, but it fits in with the Bolehland view of the world that when you crack the whip (or give selective access), you can get the story you want in the United States press. It is the battle of the newspapers now: Dato’ Seri Anwar is seen to have the support of the New York Times and the Washington Post; Dr Mahathir’s answer is the Los Angeles Times. So while his ministers pour scorn on the Western media for its anti-Malaysian stance, no one, not even the prime minister, would let principles stand in the way of a hagiographic profile.

The profile skirted the Anwar issue, with the Mahathirian justification for his travails raising the ante in Malaysian politics once again. Malaysian uneasiness at Dato’ Seri Anwar’s humiliation before his jailing, followed by further sodomy charges against him, and perjury charges against three of his friends and colleagues who retracted confessions made under police pressure, in the light of the Prime Minister’s admission, can only but increase. The Prime Minister’s ex-cathedra statements on the guilt, his dismissal on sexual charges that could not stick, and final conviction on technical corruption charges would redound on him. And, as a past master, he blurs the issue: after all other ministers have been sacked; one even was charged with murder. In his 19 years as prime minister, his reluctance to sack cabinet ministers, unless they crossed with him politically, is well-known. Those he sacked included those he was afraid of, argued with him in cabinet, would challenge his views, or was in political opposition to him. He does not sack cabinet ministers for incompetence, or are accused of sex relations or corruption, but he is brutal with those he perceives as his political rivals.

He remained control of every catharsis before the Anwar affair. That he continues to have to justify why he needed to put Dato’ Seri Anwar out of the political way points to his own political insecurity. He is thoroughly disbelieved — a state for which he blames foreign manipulation to destroy the country. He attacks the foreign media, but wants to sup with them. But every opposition attempt to gain publicity denied them by the local media is viewed as foreign manipulation of local events. But he cannot hunt with the hounds and run with the hares, even as Bolehland leader. The Prime Minister’s problem is that he alone can speak for himself; he has an army of backers, but none would dare speak up in support, for fear that this would chip away their own political support on the ground. But Dato’ Seri Anwar — in jail and physically neutralised — has an army of devoted, unpaid followers and managers who conduct a highly-effective guerrilla warfare, chosing their battleground and their weapons to put the government on the defensive. The Prime Ministerial supporters are focussed only on retaining their sinecures; his opponent’s are focussed on his removal. In this profile, the Prime Minister puts his best foot forward into IWK’s stock-in-trade. As everyone knows, even the most expensive perfume can’t mask the stink that follows.

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