On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Anwar dogged by persistent queries

Last week, the media pressed  Anwar for his reaction on talk of  his impending resignation.

That prompted a smiling Anwar  to ask :
“I cannot understand why  people keep on
talking about my  resignation.''

This is not the first time the deputy Umno president has had to answer such

The press has also asked Anwar  questions
about his purported differences with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir

On Aug 7, he laughed off a similar question: “These rumours  (have been) going on for some  time. I don't know whether this is  good news or disappointing, but  there is no basis (for them).''

The foreign media and the rumour-mongers, however, have not  left him alone despite his recent  renewed pledge of support for Dr  Mahathir in Penang.

For the first time, in fact, he announced the state's entire 11 Umno  divisions' endorsement for Dr Mahathir to
remain in the party presidency in next year's party polls.

The talk of Anwar's impending 
resignation could have surfaced 
following reports in the latest editions of Asiaweek and Time

Under the heading “Fading From  the
Picture?'', Asiaweek drew on  the
differences between the country's top two leaders and Anwar's  supposedly declining influences.

The report also claimed that Anwar was no longer the unquestioned

The US-based Time, on other  hand,
reported that “Anwar is being forced to toe the line  or risk 
a dangerous showdown with his 

Under the heading “Heir Unapparent'', the Far Eastern Economic  Review also ran a similar story on  the political future of Anwar.

At the same time, there are on going court cases relating to the  book 50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Be Prime

These magazines, which enjoy a 
reasonably big circulation in Malaysia, have naturally created an  interest on the subject.

Most of these stories have plenty  of
backgrounder but little substance.

This could be attributed to the 
magazines' eagerness to come out 
with the story fast.  Competition
is,  after all, the name of the

The trouble, however, is that  when one
is speculative, it means  one is

Sometimes, it is best to wait for 
something more substantial and 
definite.   In journalism, one
must  be responsible.

Press freedom does not mean  one can
print stories based on  hearsay and adopt
the print-and be-dammed approach.

No journalist worth his salt  would,
however, dismiss anything  political.
Politics is, after all, the  art of the

What is ironic is that these were  the
same magazines which put Anwar on the pedestal but which now  seem as quick to write him off.

The attention on Malaysian politics by foreigners is the result of  the country's strong leadership.

Unlike Indonesia, Japan, South  Korea and
Thailand, the question  of a change in
the country's leadership is unthinkable.

Support for Dr Mahathir has  been strong,
judging from the reaction of his current nationwide  tours.

Cynics who dismiss these large  turnouts
as merely party loyalists  and government
servants should  have attended the
Bangsar carnival two weeks ago.

It was not the size of the crowd  that
was impressive but the spontaneous cheering for Dr Mahathir  at the constituency, an affluent  area known to often question those  in authority.

The hype over the question of  Umno
succession could also be because the Umno election would be  held next year. Thus, the intense  interest in the future of our top  leaders.

As in any democracies, elections  mean
contests. In the run-up, political manoeuvrings and under-currents can be

There is also speculation that the 
general election is imminent although the Barisan Nasional's  mandate only ends in April 2000.

Most Barisan component parties  have
directed their members to  get ready for
the elections.

With the dissolution of the Sabah 
legislative assembly in March, 
many believe that the general election may be held simultaneously  with the Sabah state elections.

Public figures have little private  life.
Dr Mahathir and Anwar can  expect
themselves to continue to  be subjected
to public speculation.

Every single sentence they utter  and
movement they make will be  interpreted
in a thousand ways, according to the motives of the speculator.

And in this country, there are  plenty of
unnamed political analysts.  Regional
magazines ofen  quote many such Hong
Kong-based  experts who dare to comment
on  Malaysian affairs with a
straight  face.

It doesn't matter if they don't  know
where  Cherok To'kun or Kubang Pasu
are.  All that they say is  often considered sound views fit  for printing.