On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

The fight is now on all fronts

Recently, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad was met by
demonstrating students during his visits to the United Kingdom and the United

In one instance, the protestors – comprising more Pakistani students than
Malaysians – succeeded in attracting international attention and embarrassing
the Prime Minister.

On another occasion, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri
Rafidah Aziz found herself caught in a different situation.

On Sept 25, she led a joint public and private sector trade mission to New York
to attract new investment to Malaysia.

According to a report, neatly arranged outside the meeting hall were brochures
on investment opportunities and investorfriendly policies of the Malaysian

Unbeknown to the trade mission officials, inserted in the brochures were 200
pamphlets containing literature calling for the release of Anwar and condemning
Dr Mahathir.

If the report is true, then it's economic sabotage. It's no longer a question
of politicking on the part of reformasi supporters.

The Government should conduct an internal investigation as to how these
subversive pamphlets could have found their way into the promotion

Surely, only a handful of officials are involved in such oversea trips and it
could well be an inside job.

Whoever is responsible can no longer differentiate between political activitism
and the role of promoting Malaysian investments with no political

Umno leaders need to get their act together in facing the momentum of the Free
Anwar campaign.

It's easy to condemn Parti Keadilan Nasional leaders for being treacherous in
bashing the Malaysian leadership overseas but that is unlikely to create a
backlash against them.

Neither would the criticism deter Keadilan Youth chief Ezam Mohamed Noor and
others from continuing to travel abroad with their activities.

They are full-time political activists with influential connections in the US
government and media. They have plenty of time, money and determination to
carry on with their work.

Ezam has the right to air his opinions to anyone in or outside Malaysia on what
he perceives as wrongdoings of the Government.

But there has to be a line drawn in every political fight, particularly when
the rice bowls of Malaysians are affected.

Ezam can speak on issues he feels strongly about – such as the independence of
the judiciary, the role of the media, corruption and democracy – but he must be
cautious and not damage the country's economic investment climate.

At a ceramah in Kedah last week, Ezam reportedly said the movement in the US
was masterminded by himself, in Australia by party president Datin Seri Dr Wan
Azizah Wan Ismail, in South Korea by vice-president Tian Chua while information
chief Ruslan Kassim was given the responsibility of influencing Malaysian
students in UK.

Ezam, Anwar's former political secretary, has confirmed meeting aides to
powerful Republican senator Jesse Helms to exert political pressure on

Keadilan has denied engaging the services of Janus Merritt Strategy (JMS), a
medium-sized Washington-based public affairs and political strategy firm, to
keep Anwar's imprisonment high on the international agenda.

JMS had been reportedly engaged in August under a four-month retainer for

Keadilan leaders have said that they don't know about the firm nor need such

Yesterday, however, Ezam did not dismiss the possibility that the firm was
engaged by supporters of the former deputy prime minister.

If Umno leaders want to take on the fight, they have to do better instead of
moaning about it.

There has to be more commitment on the part of some leaders because the political
battle will be on all fronts.

If necessary, it should even seek the support of non-Umno members, particularly
professionals in the various fields, to speak at overseas engagements.

Keadilan has the right to engage a foreign image consultant to achieve its
political objectives overseas. After all, these foreign experts would know
their turf better.

The Malaysian Government has done the same before. If it wants to carry out
some repair work, then it should also get a PR firm to boost the country's dented

A media blitz, including editorial supplements in major magazines and
newspapers, should be carried out on the country's efforts to become a
developed nation.

Politics is all about perception and image. Good spin-doctors, whether local or
foreign, cost money but today's politics is no longer just local.