11 March 2011

Dr M book puts Anwar’s credibility at stake

By Shannon Teoh and Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s latest claims of sexual misconduct by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his memoirs has forced Pakatan Rakyat (PR) into a “perception war” over the latter’s credibility as prime minister-in-waiting. 
PR leaders said they have their work cut out to negate the former prime minister’s accusations in his autobiography that hit bookshelves this week.

In it, he wrote that Anwar had propositioned four girls for sex and not denied accusations of sodomy before being sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998.

Still licking its wounds from the twin defeats in Merlimau and Kerdau on Sunday by increased majorities, PR now has to reckon with the influential former prime minister’s efforts to “hammer in another nail in the coffin” of the opposition pact.

“That’s the reason he is doing this, just to add to all the other accusations against Anwar, trying to hammer another nail in the coffin,” said PAS political bureau member Khalid Samad.

“Dr Mahathir knows that Anwar is the glue in PR. By attacking Anwar and destroying him, it is as good as destroying PR,” DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke said.

Anwar is deep in the middle of a second sodomy trial while the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) has dismissed the PKR de facto leader as irrelevant after PR’s dismal performance in the twin by-elections.

“Dr Mahathir is very influential and what he says is very influential. We have witnessed how he attacked his predecessor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and the kind of repercussions it had for Barisan Nasional .

“His stories today will create confusion among the people and paint a negative image of Anwar so soon, we are in for a perception war,” said Rasah MP Loke.

“He is trying to damage Anwar’s credibility as an Islamic leader with charges of sexual misconduct. It is quite obvious that these are sensitive issues for Malays,” Khalid added.

Both Loke and Shah Alam MP Khalid said that despite the lack of proof, many will still swallow Dr Mahathir’s words whole.

“As it is coming from him, it will definitely create a perception, whether it is true or not. Perception matters very much in politics,” Loke said.

“Some will think, because Dr M said it, it must be true,” Khalid said of the allegations made in the book entitled, “A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.”

PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution said the claims by Dr Mahathir, PM from 1981 to 2003, would have an effect on fence sitters who were still undecided on whether Anwar had committed such acts.

Loke said PR would now have to go all-out to clear Anwar’s name, particularly with urbanites who were likely to read Dr Mahathir’s memoirs.

“We must go on the offensive. We need to explain. We need to engage more with the public,” he said.

Machang MP Saifuddin said that the main targets were those between the ages of 21 to 25, too young during Anwar’s first run-in with sodomy charges in 1998 to have been aware of the entire story.

Although Anwar was jailed for corruption and sodomy, he was freed in 2004 after the Federal Court overturned the sodomy conviction.

Parit Buntar MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa agreed that Dr Mahathir’s political influence and “powerful words” would likely impact his readers greatly despite the lack of evidence to prove his claims against Anwar.

“On a whole, people go for sensational issues. The Malaysian society is not a mature one as it exists in full awe of sensational issues.

“Many do not care if the stories are true or false and writers like Dr Mahathir truly impact his readers,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He said that PR would have to accept that it is in a perception war with BN even if it was an unfair fight over the ruling government’s control over media access.

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