Something has gone terribly wrong in attempts
to demonise Dato' Seri Anwar. Two days ago, at an UNDP luncheon,
an innocuous question at the guest of honour, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed,
the economy led to an unexpected, uncalled for, tirade against Dato' Seri Anwar. Why that should be is an enduring mystery to the guests, which included the diplomatic corps, but it is the first
public reaction to the prime minister's state of mind over the affair. The demonisation of the UMNO enemy is restrained by a court order. The tape of an alleged flirtatious conversation, played at
the crucial UMNO Supreme Council meeting, is not only disbelieved but is widely believed to be a fake. The defence minister, Dato' Syed Hamid Albar, is pleased that UMNO members cross over to PAS
since that would rid UMNO of the disloyal members. But the message that Dato' Seri Anwar's dismissal from party and government is good for UMNO is not accepted with the alacrity by the rank and file its
leaders thought it could be. More than a few members prefer to vote with their feet instead.
Dato' Seri Anwar's release from ISA detention,
shortly after his black eye whilst there, and the reported hospitalisation
of the man accused of given that to him, the Inspector-General of Police,
Tan Sri Rahim Noor, cannot give UMNO leaders much succour. He was detained to ensure that he is separated from his supporters. That widened his base of public support. Bringing him out can only widen
that further, even if he is restrained as he must be by the cases hanging above him. But the public mood is such that for him to be completely neutralised, he must be convicted of ALL the charges
against him; if he successfully deflects just one charge, the government gets a black eye even bigger than that inflicted upon him. This is a far cry from the government's position that all it
needs to destroy him political is conviction on one charge. The public mood has shifted. Whether the court likes it or not, it is Malaysian justice that is on trial.
Since the cases would be heard amidst immense
international publicity surrounding the Apec meeting in November, more
so than his dismissal and arrest amidst the Commonwealth Games, it is as
the government of Dr Mahathir on trial. It would be difficult now for Kuala Lumpur to continue to insist that ISA detainees are not physically maltreated when the former deputy prime minister is when
detained under the same law. For all the charges of treason and other offences equally serious railed against Dato' Seri Anwar in sacking him from party and government, all that has surfaced so far
is what is contained in that infamous banned book, "50 Dalil", a book of such doubtful provenance that strengthens his claim that his dismissal is politically motivated.
The High Court would decide whether Dato'
Seri Anwar deflects the charges against him. But it cannot control,
nor can it attempt to, the political whirlwind and confusion this has caused
Malaysian body politic. The timing of the cases, sandwiching the APEC conference, makes it especially so, and could well destroy Dato' Seri Anwar's political life, but it also throws into question
the political life of UMNO and its leaders. It does also appear on the cards that UMNO is headed for yet another split in its ranks, irrespective of whether Anwar is convicted or not of the charges
against him. The Biblical adage -- as you sow, so shall you reap -- comes to mind.