Anwar is still haunting Mahathir
It is now more than 28 months since Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad got rid of his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. On 16 June 2001, Anwar would be in jail for 1,000 days.
Based on the two sentences Anwar is currently serving he is due to spend another 2,600 to 4,400 days behind bars - depending on how much time he gets off for good behavior. Of course, if Anwar wins his appeal or gets a royal pardon, then he would get out much earlier.
Many people believe Anwar's political career is finished for good - unless he wins his appeal, gets a royal pardon, or is given a retrial and is found innocent.
When the Russians shot down Korean Airlines flight KAL 007 they did not attempt to offer any explanation why. Was it human error? Was KAL 007 a spy plane? They never said. When asked why they did not "clear the air", the Russians replied that the world has a memory of only 100 days. In 100 days time all will be forgotten so why bother to explain?
True enough. Who now remembers or talks about Korean Airlines flight KAL 007? Many cannot even recollect the incident or remember when it had happened, except for the family of those who died that day.
Considering Anwar has spent more than 100 days in prison is he too now forgotten like flight KAL 007?
Far from it! And the person constantly reminding us of Anwar is none other than the person who put him in jail - Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Wherever in the world Mahathir goes he talks about Anwar. When he meets Malaysian students overseas he talks about Anwar. When he meets foreign guests he talks about Anwar. In his National Day speech he talks about Anwar. In his Eidil Fitri message he talks about Anwar. At the UMNO General Assembly he talks about Anwar.
Even when Mahathir meets total strangers he talks about Anwar.
Why this obsession with Anwar? If Anwar is yesterday's news, if Anwar is forgotten, if Anwar's political career is finished, let the matter rest. Why keep bringing up the Anwar issue?
This is because Anwar is far from forgotten or finished and Mahathir's obsession with the "Anwar issue" clearly points to this fact.
Anwar is "haunting" Mahathir. Everywhere Mahathir looks he sees Anwar.
Mahathir sees Anwar in the National Front's recent loss of the Lunas by-election. When he sees that the majority of the Malays have deserted UMNO he sees Anwar. When he sees people take to the streets to protest against his regime he sees Anwar. The ruling National Front has lost the support of the people and Mahathir sees Anwar.
Mahathir blames Anwar for everything that is going wrong with his life. If Mahathir held a garden party and it rained he would blame Anwar for it. That is how paranoid Mahathir is of Anwar.
When Mahathir goes
overseas he likes to meet Malaysian students and staff in the host country. He
will spend 90 minutes or so talking to them. At least 60 minutes of his talk
will center on Anwar.
Sometimes Mahathir will aggressively attack Anwar. Other times Mahathir will spin his sad story of how he treated Anwar like a son only to be "stabbed in the back" by a scheming, plotting traitor.
Mahathir's normal lines are:
"At first I did not believe the stories about Anwar, but later I questioned all the people involved and they told me what happened. I do not need a police investigation or the court to convince me Anwar is guilty."
"Why do they want me to testify at Anwar's trial? What do I know about Anwar's case?"
"I treated Anwar like a son, I was grooming him to take over from me, but all the time he was plotting behind my back."
"I brought Anwar into UMNO so that he would not join PAS where he can cause mischief."
"The court gave Anwar every opportunity to defend himself. He was asked so many times whether he is innocent. But he refused to say whether he is innocent so the court had no choice but to find Anwar guilty."
"Anwar says he is innocent and that this is all a conspiracy against him. Do you think it is so easy to get so many people to participate in a conspiracy? Someone is sure to talk."
(Some sure did talk - Raja Kamaruddin Raja Wahid - and it was featured in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, "The Sham Trials of Anwar Ibrahim").
Not only does Mahathir talk a lot about the Anwar case but he contradicts his story each time.
Mahathir has instructed the media to totally blackout all news on Anwar. Even the names of Dr Wan Azizah, Anwar's wife, or Nurul Izzah, his daughter, may not be mentioned.
Immediately after the 5 November 2000 gathering, the Chinese press was told not to publish any pictures of Wan Azizah in a wheelchair.
Officers in the Prime Minister's office told me that the very name of Anwar may not be uttered in Mahathir's presence or else he will go berserk.
Anwar may be in jail - and he may be in jail for some time to come - but Mahathir is as much a prisoner as Anwar is. Anwar may be locked away behind bars, but Mahathir is also a prisoner, trapped by the ghost of Anwar.