Dogged by another scandal

No other politician in this country has had to face as many allegations of a sexual nature as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who is now fighting off accusations that he was the man in a sex video recorded in a hotel room last month.

IT was probably a coincidence but when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim arrived at the Dang Wangi police station to lodge a report on the sex video, he was wearing the same checked shirt he had worn when he made a police report over the Saiful Bukhari case more than two years ago.

Hopefully, it is his lucky shirt because he is going to need all the luck he can get over the next few months.

Anwar is battling a new set of sex allegations, this time with a woman.

So what is new, many have asked. There have been so many accusations about him and men, and him and women, that most people are at a loss what to make of it.

But there is a big difference about the latest allegation. His detractors have produced what they claim is a video recording of the sex act, a smoking gun so to speak.

This video is now a subject of great debate and even greater dispute.

Almost everyone talking about the video has not viewed it. Those who are with Anwar have condemned it as a fake and another conspiracy to bring him down. Those who are against him are ever ready to believe that he is the man in the video. As for those in the middle, some feel incredulous, some are suspicious and others are simply confused.

Can lightning strike the same place, or in this case man, so many times?

Even the scene at the police station on Tuesday was reminiscent of that two years ago – the shirt Anwar was wearing, his line of defence, and the counter accusations. This time, though, the crowd of supporters was smaller and there was none of that human wall of emotion that was evident when he lodged the report concerning the Saiful case.

But they came with two long banners, a PKR flag, and made a lot of noise, shouting, “Hidup Anwar” (long live Anwar) and “Hancur fitnah” (destroy slander).

It is little wonder that Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who accompanied him to the police station looked worn out and subdued. The whole thing must be like a bad dream for the lady who had held the fort when her husband was in jail.

Dr Wan Azizah is not in a good place at the moment. Moreover, Tan Sri Saleha Ali, the lady who had introduced Dr Wan Azizah to Anwar, passed away on Monday, the day the video screening took place. Saleha is the sister-in-law of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Their daughter Nurul Izzah has finally come out to defend her father. She was upset about the perception that she had not come out earlier to defend her father and she finally tweeted on Friday morning: “I stand firm in defence of DSAI’s innocence.”

There is simply too much happening in the life of Anwar.

The sex video exploded even as the debate was going on about whether he should submit to a DNA test to settle the issue of who Lelaki Y is and to clear his name.

The video has overshadowed his court case and eclipsed the dissolution of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly.

Anwar and his supporters have condemned the video in the strongest terms. They have slammed it as a fake, a doctored document, old and dirty politics and an act of desperation.

Anwar called a press conference to deny he was the man in the video hours after news of the exclusive screening broke. After that, things began to move at lightning pace. On Tuesday, PKR MP for Sungai Petani Johari Abdul who had viewed the video insisted that the man in it was not his party de facto leader. Anwar, on his part, rallied the top Pakatan Rakyat leaders to come out and voice support for him.

By Wednesday, almost everything was out in the open. Datuk T turned out to be a composite for the three men behind the “exposé”. They were none other than former Malacca Chief Minister Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik who is no stranger to sex controversies, former Thai honorary consul Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah, and Perkasa treasurer Datuk Shuib Lazim.

Two of them, Rahim and Eskay, were questioned by police on Thursday night.

Badrul Hisham Shaharin, the PKR orator better known as Chegu Bard, refuted the video after being invited to view it. Anwar and Badrul had not spoken for months after a fallout but the de facto leader was so grateful that he phoned Badrul to thank him that day.

It was a rollercoaster week.

Pakatan politicians cannot be blamed for suspecting that the three men have some sort of motive against Anwar and were out to do him in. Rahim has clearly not forgotten Anwar’s role in ending his political career over a sex-related controversy whereas Shuib’s Perkasa links mean that he disagrees with Anwar’s post-2008 politics.

As for Eskay, his claim that he is the other man seen in the video suggests that he and the main “actor” were friends who shared secrets that extended into the bedroom – and bedroom secrets get messy when aired in public.

Anwar’s allies have zeroed in on the motives of the trio and accused them of conspiracy. They have also asked the police to arrest those who screened and viewed the video.

But if they want to clear Anwar’s name, they should quickly initiate moves to have the video authenticated by film experts whether here or abroad. His partners in Pakatan should be moving in that direction. It would benefit them to clear the air in a convincing manner.

Anwar will score an incredible victory over his opponents if the video proves to be a tampered document. But if it is authentic and the man engaged in the sex act is indeed him, then it may be the end of the political road for him.

Mixed feelings

Although DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang have condemned the video as a dirty act, others in the respective parties are uncomfortable with the ambiguity.

“I don’t rule it out totally but from the Islamic viewpoint, we cannot pinpoint a wrongdoing until evidence is produced. The video could be true but if it is false, it is going to backfire on them,” said a leading figure in PAS.

One middle-ranking PAS official said: “I hope it is not him. If it is, ayo ...”

Pakatan politicians have cause to be worried. According to analysts, politicians have survived sex scandals but rarely when it involves video evidence.

Two politicians in Malaysian history have been brought down by such recordings – MIC secretary-general and deputy minister Datuk D.P. Vijendran and, more recently, former minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek. The latter has since made a comeback.

Anwar is used to taking issues and causes to the court of public opinion. He understands very well the power of perception in politics and he has used it with finesse from the day he entered politics. He used it to rally support when he was sacked in 1998 and when he was accused of sodomising Saiful.

Anwar is once again banking on winning in the court of public opinion on the latest issue.

Even his opponents have latched on to the public perception game given the way various Malay groups have been publicly pressing him to undergo a DNA test in connection to the sodomy trial. These Malay groups were basically taking the DNA issue to the court of public opinion.

But there are doubts among Pakatan leaders about his political future. They are wondering whether he is there to help them get to Putrajaya or they are there to save him from one calamity after another.

A former associate of Anwar’s said that in the post-2008 days, people flocked to hear him because he represented hope and change. But many now go to his ceramah not because they think he is going to be the next Prime Minister but because he has become a figure of curiosity and notoriety – or what the associate terms “the elephant man” whom everyone wants to look at.

Anwar has this terrific charisma and persona which helps him survive from crisis to crisis. He is clearly under pressure over the video issue but he seems to be far from a meltdown going by his speech at a prayer gathering in his Segambut house on Thursday night. His friends and supporters were there for him.

But beyond this loyal circle, the concern among some Pakatan leaders is that Anwar has gone from being a key pillar in Pakatan to being a political liability.

They are confident of winning the battle of public perception but so much time and effort putting out fires may cost them the war.

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