Make your own free website on

Saturday, Sept 12
Sacked deputy PM takes his campaign on the road
By ALVIN UNG (Associated Press)

CHEROK TOK KUN, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysia's sacked deputy prime minister went to his rural hometown Saturday to defend himself on sexual misconduct allegations and launch his nationwide political reform campaign.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sacked Anwar Ibrahim as his deputy and finance minister on Sept. 2, saying he was immoral and unfit to lead this Southeast Asian nation.

Police are investigating eight criminal charges against him and say he could face arrest.

Anwar has vehemently denied all allegations, saying they were crafted by his former mentor to undermine his growing popularity and challenge to Mahathir's 17-year rule.

He called on some 5,000 supporters Saturday who had traveled for miles to dismiss the allegations and stand by him.

''I'm back in Penang, I haven't forgotten my roots,'' Anwar shouted from a raised platform outside his father's modest, two-story house in the northwestern state of Penang. ''I'm launching the reformation movement here.''

He said he would travel the nation to rehabilitate himself and be reinstated to the ruling United Malaysia National Organization, from which he was expelled last week. He'll also spell out his government reform platform, which calls for more democratic freedoms and government transparency.

''The newspapers have vilified me,'' Anwar said. ''My name has been smeared on national television, but the more they smear me, the stronger the support.''

The rally was attended by several UMNO division chiefs, one who launched a petition drive calling on Mahathir to reinstate Anwar into the party that has dominated Malaysian politics since independence from Britain in 1957.

Mazlan Saad, a spokesman for a non-government organization, the Malaysian Reformist Organization, said his group had always taken on social causes and shied away from politics.

But with the Anwar sacking, MRO would now throw its weight behind Anwar.

''The action against Anwar is a culmination of what's rotten in the government,'' Mazlan said. ''Anwar symbolizes the future of the country. The one person that really destabilizes Malaysia is Mahathir.''

Though political rallies are illegal in Malaysia without a police permit, no police were seen at the house or along the winding dirt road leading to the compound.

''Mahathir is terrified of being toppled,'' said Syed Abdul Halib, 26, who rode his motorcycle from a neighboring town to listen to Anwar's speech. ''If Mahathir doesn't like Anwar, just say so, but don't fabricate lies about him.''

Later Saturday night, Anwar was scheduled to hold another rally in Mahathir's hometown and power base, Alor Setar.

Anwar, 51, appears to be courting conservative Muslims often at odds with Mahathir's secular rule.

On Friday, he attended prayers at a mosque at Kampong Baru, traditionally a gathering place for Islamic scholars to debate religious policy and push for more Islamic influence over the government.

On Friday night, Anwar visited well-known Islamic scholar Harun Din, banned from weekly televised religious shows as his views were seen by the government as too extreme.

An aide to Anwar told The AP Friday that Anwar's strategy was to reach out to conservative Muslims frustrated by Mahathir's ''secularized Islam.''

Malaysia has maintained stability since independence from Britain in 1957, due in part, the government says, to a degree of separation between mosque and state. Though 60 percent of the population are indigenous Malays, who are Muslims, the other 40 percent are ethnic Chinese and Indians, most of whom are Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.