To News Editors 1 April 1999
For Immediate Release


HONG KONG, 1 April 1999 -- In an exclusive written interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review, jailed ex-Deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim said his six months in jail had not dampened support for his cause--either inside or outside Malaysia's ruling United Malays National Organization.

"If there is anyone in Umno who says there is no support for me from within the party, he must either be dreaming or fooling himself. There are influential party men still in communication with me and still pledging their support," Anwar said.

In written responses to questions submitted by the REVIEW, Anwar also called Premier Mahathir Mohamad a "desperate politician" and criticized his economic-management skills.

The reason that no ministers resigned following the deputy premier's sacking in September was that they feared retaliation by Mahathir, Anwar said. Support for his reformasi movement was growing, he added.

"Malaysians are tired of being talked down to and seeing democracy and freedom playing second fiddle to 'economic development.' These feelings are growing stronger by the day," Anwar said.

Anwar said the matter of his beating while in police custody was not closed, even though Inspector General of Police Rahim Noor had admitted responsibility. "Most people don't believe that Rahim acted alone. They want to know whether Dr. Mahathir, as minister of home affairs when the attack took place, was involved," Anwar said.

Anwar, who was also finance minister, rejected Mahathir's accusations that he had pursued freemarket policies because he was a stooge of the West. He went on to criticize Mahathir's economic-management skills.

"Dr. M. has been and continues to be in denial, blaming everyone except himself for Malaysia's economic woes," Anwar said. "To do the right thing, one must first bite the bullet. Dr. Mahathir has instead chosen to bite his critics. Corruption continues to be excessive."

"Mahathir is a desperate politician who will spin anything to deflect criticism from himself and his oppressive and corrupt regime. He realizes he is becoming increasingly unpopular," Anwar said.

Anwar described his wife, opthalmologist Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as a "remarkable" politician and called her advocacy group, Adil, "probably the most successful civic group in Malaysian history."

Anwar was defiant even though he is facing the possibility of a long jail term: The verdict in his trial on charges of corruption is due on April 6, and another trial on sodomy charges hasn't been ruled out.

"I spend my time praying, preparing my defence, drawing up political strategies and reading," he said of his prison routine. "Currently, I am re-reading The Penguin History of the World. My lawyers provide me with some foreign magazines, but understandably I get them a little late."

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