On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

The year of little notoriety

There are only so many follow-up stories that can be
written about Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim since his sacking in 1998. International
viewers must be sick of seeing the same file pictures by now.

The bad news is the world is in danger of forgetting us. As the saying goes, it
is better to be in the news than not at all.

A certain degree of notoriety doesn't really hurt. The only spark of excitement
was when a group of Filipino Muslim rebels abducted 21 people, including 11
foreigners, from Pulau Sipadan in April.

Malaysia was suddenly in the news. The limelight was, however, shared with
Manila each time a hostage was released, which seemed to take ages.

No one is sure, until now, who paid the millions in ransom to the rebels.

All the governments denied paying money to the kidnappers. They don't condone
kidnapping, remember?

Realising that kidnapping was a profitable business, the Abu Sayyaf group
abducted three more Malaysians from Pulau Pandanan on Sept 11.

What has happened to these greedy, gun-toting kidnappers after a series of high
profile attacks by the Filipino army? Enjoying their ill-gotten gains somewhere
safe on a resort island, possibly.

Besides the Abu Sayyaf, the Al-Maunah deviationist group made international

On July 1, 15 men posing as army officers allegedly stole at least 100 M16
rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition and other weapons from two army camps
in Perak.

Five days later, the group of 27 men surrendered before killing two hostages,
ending a tense standoff with the authorities.

For a while, the Opposition accused the Government of staging the incident.

Quite a number of Malaysians who proudly proclaimed they no longer believe what
they read in the local newspapers did just the opposite – they incredibly
believed what the oppositionists had claimed.

It was a lack-lustre year for political writers. Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad
and Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi won their respective posts in Umno
unopposed in March.

On Aug 10, Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Abu Hassan Omar quit, citing health
reasons and family wishes. For a while, rumours flew about a sex

Within months, Abu Hassan had became a footnote in Selangor history as he
stayed out of public life.

There were three by-elections: Barisan Nasional won in Sanggang (April 1) and
Teluk Kemang (June 10) but lost in Lunas on Nov 29.

Again, except for the local press, none of these by-elections went beyond a
filler in the foreign media since they had no impact on the political

Continuing the Malaysia Boleh (can do) spirit, more Malaysians attempted to get
their names into world records.

We have lost track of the number of people who stayed in glass cages with their
pet snakes and the number of times the Penang Government has hosted the longest
buffet spread.

It has gone stale, really. We need to be more imaginative and more inspiring.
It doesn't look very good on us when Singaporeans are making world headlines
with new discoveries in the sciences.

The only time we made it into the world press last year was when we discovered
that we have sex the least often in a survey of 27 countries, according to the
2000 Durex Global Sex Survey.

The survey found that Malaysians had sex only once a week or an average of 62
times a year.

Of course, most of us questioned the accuracy of the findings, saying it did
not reflect the sex pattern of the whole nation. Understandably, more than
national pride was at stake.

Sure, we have been busy with work and more work, neglecting marital duties in
the process, but it's difficult to explain to foreigners why so much effort is
put into trying to break the next snake record.

Barisan and opposition politicians tried to outdo each other in threatening to
resign from their posts but predictably stayed on.

There was no shortage of politicians who readily put their feet into their
mouths. Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Nik Aziz again provided guffaws by
blaming women for the cause of social ills in the country.

He was not alone. Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Adnan Yaakob gave Malaysians a new
meaning in hand signals with his infamous foul gesture during the Sanggang

MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu vowed that he would not return to Kuala
Lumpur if Barisan lost in the Lunas by-election. When the Opposition won, he
said he could not remain in Lunas because of the tension.

To wrap up the year, we had the Chinese and Malay groups who seemed to be stuck
in the 50s with their communal stand and postures.

Hello! We are in the new millennium. Malaysians no longer buy communal

These groups have gone silent for the time being, probably because of the
festive season. Let's hope they continue to do so as we usher in 2001.

We as a nation should steel ourselves for the rough ride ahead as the world
economy remains unpredictable.

But for tonight, at least, forget your worries and enjoy yourselves.

Happy new year!