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Thursday, 24 March 2011

When Doc in the House had ‘AIDS’

Along The Watchtower By M. Veera Pandiyan

Fascinating stories about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, from a man who was close to both of them.

IT’S amazing that when it comes to politics in Malaysia, things either revolve around the same old issues or the same old personalities.

Like these two who still continue to make the headlines – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Over the past few days, I have been trying unsuccessfully to get a copy of the former Prime Minister’s memoirs, A Doctor in the House, which has generated much interest since its launch more than two weeks ago.

Having missed out on the deadline for the collective buying discount offer at the office, the last hunt was at Borders in Tropicana City Mall in Petaling Jaya on Monday, only to find out that the latest batch of copies had just been sold out.

Love him or loathe him but this is one person whom Malaysians find hard to ignore. The PM for 22 years may have stepped down eight years ago but there’s no waning of his stature or influence among many, just as there seems no end to aversion and scorn from others.

The other character who seems to be forever making the news is of course Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, a former blue-eyed boy of Dr Mahathir, who rose through his patronage to occupy the second most important position in the country before being unceremoniously sacked and jailed in 1998 on sodomy and corruption charges.

After a long hiatus, poster-size pictures of him made the front pages on Tuesday, next to headlines denying that he was the man in a shocker of a sex video with a hooker, unveiled to selected media representatives a day earlier.

Anwar has since lodged a police report citing criminal intimidation and defamation against Datuk T who exposed the video, and the police have begun probing the case under the law pertaining to possession and distribution of pornographic material.

(Datuk T stands for Datuk Trio or Three Datuks, who have been identified as Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik, Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and Datuk Shuib Lazim).

Datuk T, meanwhile, had said he would surrender the footage to an independent public commission and urged the media fraternity and non-government organisations to take the lead in setting one up.

As some of these developments were taking place on Tuesday, I was having a chat and coffee with Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, a man whose life has been intertwined with that of Dr Mahathir and Anwar and one who knows a lot about both of them.

The former youth leader, scholar, linguist and colourful politician who has had a chequered career spanning banking, politics from the grassroots to the Cabinet level and academia, is, of course, no stranger to controversy himself.

Political veterans would agree that this is one guy who has always been close to Dr Mahathir and was also once very chummy with Anwar, making him a veritable font of yarns about both of them.

Many of the stories are yet to be heard, and some like those dating back to when Anwar was a Form One schoolboy in the Malay College Kuala Kangsar and Sanusi was his senior in Form Five are unlikely to be told.

Sanusi, a founder vice-president of Abim, certainly is someone who knows the ins and outs of Anwar from the time he was 12 years old to his entry into politics.

Among the anecdotes told by Sanusi on Tuesday was about the time when Dr Mahathir threatened to quit as Prime Minister in 1985 as Umno nearly held an extraordinary general meeting to urge Tun Musa Hitam, who had resigned as Deputy Prime Minister in the wake of the Memali tragedy, to return.

He recalled his rather devious role, and that of a few others, in getting the delegates to oppose the motion for the EGM – by making them believe that the majority was against it, although the opposite was true – through persuasive but frantic last-minute phone calls.

Musa’s supporters later put up posters linking Dr Mahathir with ‘AIDS’ – an acronym for the closest people around him then: Anwar Ibrahim, Daim (Zainuddin) and Sanusi – and blamed them for the defeat.

According to Sanusi, among the ‘AIDS’, it was Anwar who was cosiest to Dr Mahathir.

“Besides his wife and children, Anwar was the nearest to Dr Mahathir’s heart,” he recalled, adding that unlike the others whom he only sought for views, Anwar benefited most from the former PM’s trust.

Sanusi also related another interesting tale about money politics in Umno, dating back to 1993 when former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Ghafar Baba was swept away in the contest for the deputy president’s post by Anwar, who was then leading the party’s Team Wawasan.

Sabah strongman the late Tun Datu Mustapha Harun, Ghafar and Sanusi were on their way to a divisional meeting in Sabah in a helicopter and during the journey, Mustapha kept telling Ghafar not to worry as he was about to get his first nomination from the state.

“But when we reached the place, the division chief, who was supposed to be a strong supporter of Mustapha, said: ‘Sorry Tun, I cannot nominate Ghafar today because that man over there (pointing to someone later only identified by the others as a Sarawakian and non-Malay) has just given me RM500,000.”

The meeting soon started with a short speech, after which the nomination was done in front of everyone. And as the division chief said, it was not Ghafar who was named.

Sanusi said during their journey back, Mustapha said he was not surprised at the turn of events.
He said he told the dejected Ghafar matter-of-factly: “I regret I did not bring RM1mil.”

Associate editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this observation by American journalist Joseph Sobran who passed on last year: Politics is the conspiracy of the unproductive but organised against the productive but unorganised.
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