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Saturday, June 19, 1999 Published at 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Mahathir unveils 'crony' counter-attack

The list was released during the ruling party's general assembly

Malaysia Crisis Section
Malaysia's Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohammed, says he has proof his ousted deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, practised cronyism, awarding lucrative contracts to his friends and relatives.

The announcement came after lists of projects awarded during Mr Anwar's term of office were displayed on boards at the annual general assembly of the ruling United Malay National Organisation.

The BBC's Frances Harrison reports: The PM said he had proof that large numbers of projects had been handed over
The list gave details of 27 privatisation contracts, together worth around $9bn that were awarded between 1993 and June last year when Mr Anwar headed the finance ministry.

"The purpose of the release is to show what is going on," Mr Anwar's successor, Abdullah Badawi, told the Umno meeting.

"There has been so much accusation of cronyism, so much talk of giving favours, so take a look and decide for yourself."

[ image: Abdullah Badawi:
Abdullah Badawi: "Decide for yourself"
Dr Mahathir said his government did not practise cronyism as a matter of principle, but he said members of Mr Anwar's family had been given directorships, chairmanships and millions of shares.

He admitted that his children's names also appeared on the list, but said they were only minor shareholders in the companies awarded government contracts.

Anwar statement

Since his dismissal in September Mr Anwar has repeatedly demanded an overhaul of ties between the private and public sectors, accusing Dr Mahathir of widespread nepotism and cronyism.

[ image: Dr Mahathir has been accused of cronyism and nepotism]
Dr Mahathir has been accused of cronyism and nepotism
Responding to the list, Mr Anwar issued a statement from his jail cell saying he had been sacked from the government because he had wanted to clean it up.

The former deputy premier was jailed for six years in April after being found guilty of corruption.

He is currently on trial on separate charges of illegal homosexual activity.

On Friday in a speech to the Umno meeting, the Prime Minister described his one-time protégé as a "puppet" of foreign elements bent on the recolonisation of Malaysia.

Contempt charges

[ image: Mr Anwar is currrently on trial on charges of illegal sex]
Mr Anwar is currrently on trial on charges of illegal sex
Mr Anwar's lawyers have sought to bring contempt proceedings against Dr Mahathir for saying that it was his former deputy's "morals and behaviour" which led to his dismissal.

"What the prime minister said could have prejudged the case," defence counsel Karpal Singh told the trial on Saturday.

"This court should direct that he make himself presentable in this court and explain as to why he should not be committed to prison for his remarks."

Public knowledge

However, Attorney-General Mohtar Abdullah, who leads the prosecution, said Dr Mahathir was privileged to make such remarks based on Mr Anwar's conviction in the earlier corruption trial. He argued that this was public knowledge and refers to Mr Anwar's moral conduct.

Judge Arifin Jaka, who is hearing the sodomy charges against Mr Anwar, said he would consider the defence's request if it filed a written application.

"I did not say that the PM did not commit contempt," the judge said. "I can't decide now and I don't know when I'm hearing it. But file a proper application and let the court decide properly on it."

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