On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Calm must return after the storm

Just a year back, Anwar was regarded as the Prime
Minister's heir  apparent. He was a man
who could  do no wrong. But over the past
one  month, it became clear that he
had  found himself on the wrong

The unprecedented sequence of  events
last week  which saw the  sacking of Anwar as Deputy Prime  Minister, Finance Minister and  then as an Umno member  has 
stunned the general population.

Equally astounding were the details in four affidavits filed in the  High Court implicating Anwar in  sexual misconduct and of being a  threat to national security.

The allegations of sexual misconduct include 15 counts of sodomising an unnamed
man, illicit sex  with a number of women,
and trying to seduce the wife of a businessman on a working trip to

Several of the alleged sexual  trysts
took place at an apartment in  Tivoli
Villa in affluent Bangsar.

The affidavits were tendered to  support
the detention of Magnum  Corporation
Berhad public affairs  director Datuk S.
Nallakaruppan at  Bukit Aman.

Malaysians can be forgiven for  being in
shock because the events  that have
unfolded have been dramatic and the information they received has been equally

Last Wednesday, even as Anwar  walked
into the Prime Minister's  office to
attend the weekly Cabinet  meeting, there
was already talk  that his career had
come to an end.

When the Cabinet meeting ended  at 11am,
Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir  Mohamad and Anwar
walked off together in conversation. It was to be  Anwar's last Cabinet meeting.

Despite repeated denials of a rift 
between the two men, Anwar's fall 
from grace became apparent over 
the past two months.

The events leading to Anwar being stripped of his powers are now  academic.

What is clear is that Dr Mahathir  has
obtained the support of all state  Umno
liaison chiefs for the decision.

The next question would be who  would
fill the two ministerial positions left vacant and whether there  is a need for a Cabinet reshuffle.

Under the Federal Constitution,  there is
no requirement for a Deputy Prime Minister.

Dr Mahathir himself has said it  was likely
that he would not appoint a new Deputy Prime Minister  but he needed a Finance Minister.

Saying he would be Acting Finance Minister, Dr Mahathir added  that he hoped to find somebody  willing.

Several names have been mentioned, but a strong possibility is  Tun Daim Zainuddin, now Special  Functions Minister.

It might be burdensome for  Daim, who
also heads the National  Economic Action
Council, to take a  third job, but no one
can dispute his  capabilities and

Over recent months, Daim has  been
involved in many economic  considerations
affecting the country and in recovery efforts.

The need to fill the post is naturally urgent as Parliament will  meet next month to discuss the  Budget.

Also of concern is the impact of  Anwar's
sacking on party unity. A  period of
healing is needed at this  point.

Talk of a general election seems  remote
at this juncture, with more  pressing
matters at hand, but others have still not dismissed the possibility of snap

Dr Mahathir has correctly pointed out that in many countries, ministers are
sacked every now and  then.

As recent as last month, New  Zealand
Prime Minister Jenny  Shipley fired her
deputy, Winston  Peters, who also held
the Treasurer's post.

President Boris Yeltsin went further. He sacked Prime Minister  Sergei Kiriyenko as well as the rest  of the government.

The shock over Anwar's removal  from
power can be attributed to the  former
student leader's personality  and rise in
the hierarchy.

Although there had been rumours of his downfall, Malaysians  were confused by persistent denials from
party leaders, including  Anwar himself
who later explained  that until the last
minute, he was  hoping for some kind of a

It remains to be seen what kind  of
action will follow but the coming  days
appear crucial.

The nation has watched the expression of support for Dr Mahathir and the
unhappiness of supporters of Anwar.

There has been some degree of 
uneasiness. Malaysians hope that 
the situation will cool down, and 
the constant reminders by Umno 
leaders to members to remain calm 
has been reassuring.

There is a need to ensure that the 
government machinery does not 
come to a halt with the political developments in the country as we  brace ourselves to tackle the economic