On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Hard sell on BBC’s HARDtalk

It all started with presenter Stephen Sackur asking Anwar about his control of TV3 and a fleet of newspapers, suggesting that Anwar had used his political influence to control the media when he was deputy prime minister.

The point made was simple – despite talking about press freedom and civil society, Anwar, like many politicians, had used the media for his own political interest.

But Anwar refuted the allegations, pointing the finger instead at Dr Mahathir at least twice during the interview.

In turn, Dr Mahathir said he was merely a joint trustee together with the Umno deputy president and treasurer to assets and shares owned by the party.

The BBC interview, which was aired four times over Astro, has generated some interest among Malaysians, especially on political websites, but perhaps only among the politically-conscious.

The reality is that Malaysians are more interested in the increasing cost of living. The allegations and rebuttals by Anwar and Dr Mahathir may be a good read but much has taken place over the past years.

Dr Mahathir has retired, Anwar has been released from jail, the Keadilan party was badly defeated in the elections and Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has firmly settled in as prime minister.

Malaysians now talk about what the new administration has done or not done since the general election when the Barisan Nasional scored its biggest electoral success.

While not many people are prepared to write off Anwar from the political scene as he is relatively young at 57, it would be very difficult for him to make a comeback.

As a blogger wrote on his website, he has difficulty placing trust in what Anwar says and practises politically because Anwar was part of the political establishment for more than a decade.

Anwar, he argued, was not much different from many politicians, playing the Islamic image to conservative Muslims and the liberal, civil society leader to the non-governmental organisations.

Some would even blame Anwar for making Malaysia become more Middle Eastern, in the name of Islam, during  the time when he was in power.

But the blogger, echoing the sentiments of many Malaysians, also said that he had nothing but despise over the way Anwar was treated by the police and media when he was arrested.

Most Malaysians who watched the show felt that it harmed Anwar's image. He was unsure, hesitant and, on several instances, made reversals to his statements.

He looked like a jaded politician who has had his time and opportunity. His attempt to project a new look did not appear convincing.

But Westerners, who may not be too familiar with the Malaysian political scene, and those who still harbour anger against Dr Mahathir, could possibly sympathise with the statements made by Anwar.

Topics like civil society, a free society, reforms and the fight against corruption are issues that go down well with the people, regardless of where they come from, and Anwar has understandably used them as his platform.

But all politics is local, as the saying goes. That would be Anwar's predicament, now that he has been released from jail.

Reforms in government and the fight against corruption are no longer issues which are the monopoly of Anwar. They are also the agenda of Abdullah, who has made much progress in these areas.

All that the prime minister must do is to make sure that he continues to pursue these issues passionately. That is the hardest part for Anwar.