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Friday, Sept 11
Ousted Malaysia Official a Spectacle
By JOCELYN GECKER (Associated Press)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - At the end of one cul-de-sac in a posh Kuala Lumpur suburb, the growing crowds chanting ``Reformasi!'' have become a national spectacle.

At first hundreds, now thousands have descended on the home of ousted deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim every night since his dismissal last week, some to support his reform campaign - many just to witness the show.

``I came to see the fiesta,'' said Cheng Poh Hand, a corporate lawyer, seated beneath a blue-and-white striped tent top on a leather couch, doubling as lawn furniture on Anwar's back porch.

Anwar was sacked as finance and deputy prime minister and expelled from the ruling party on lurid allegations ranging from sexual misconduct with men and women to treason.

Since then he has held nightly rallies, often preaching barefoot atop a coffee table, asserting his innocence and outlining his campaign for political reform.

Anwar's residence, a spacious, white-stucco duplex, has been transformed into a political command post where he mingles with supporters - many equipped with instamatic cameras to pose with the fallen leader - and journalists, staked out round-the-clock, listening for police sirens.

For days, Anwar has said he fears his imminent arrest. But Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday that police would avoid arresting Anwar to prevent international media from labeling Malaysia as ``repressive.''

Unable to read about Anwar's speeches in the pro-government local press, Malaysians, many of whom traveled to Kuala Lumpur from other states in country, have converged on Anwar's home to hear his story firsthand.

University students distribute photocopies of foreign news articles downloaded from the Internet to the crowd mixed with political supporters, middle-class businessmen and housewives clutching their children's hands.

``Most of them, they want to hear his speech, what he has to say,'' said Azman Ali Mohamad, a financial consultant, gesturing at the more than 6,000 people spilling into the upscale neighborhood around Anwar's home during a recent speech. ``I came to see him, his house - and all this.''

Mercedes and motorbikes jammed the usually quiet streets, prowling for parking spots. Unable to enter Anwar's tightly-packed backyard, onlookers crouched on the high stucco walls surrounding his home. Others, craning their necks to see, held tape recorders or video cameras in Anwar's general direction.

Vendors outside hawked bottled water with a sign that read: ``Reformation Water'' and bootlegged cassettes and videotapes of Anwar's fiery speeches from the past week. One vendor estimated he had sold 5,000 cassettes in four days.

The Domino's Pizza around the corner extended business hours from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. to feed the massive flow of customers.

To secure a good seat, onlookers have taken to arriving several hours early and making themselves at home on Anwar's living room couches or on plastic chairs lining his torn-up lawn.

A cluster of men on a recent afternoon sat in the backyard watching a professional wrestling match on a giant-screen TV set up to view back videotapes of Anwar's speeches.