Barisan Nasional presents:
Heroes and villains
Anwar Ibrahim. When will Mahathir and his dwindling troupe of supporters
admit that they are never going to get rid of him? The more they try,
the lower their credibility sinks and the further Anwar's reputation
and standing are enhanced.
For sure, he is currently locked away in a high security prison, and
his physical health, for want of proper treatment, is deteriorating
seriously, but the firm moral stand and the indomitable fighting spirit
of this remarkable man are looking stronger than ever.
Many people I meet ask after Anwar. Their eyes, as they ask, reveal
their strong sympathy and their concern that he is not being treated
justly and humanely. I tell them that he has now been in solitary
confinement for a full three years, despite the fact that he should,
by right, have been out on bail all this time, since the avenues for
appeal have not yet been exhausted. They are shocked and disturbed
to know that, although in need of continuing specialist medical attention
for his severe spinal problem, he has been sent back to prison where
he gets very little beyond painkillers and whatever care a hospital
assistant can provide.
The medical team which looked after Anwar during the months he was
in hospital from late last year, on learning that the authorities
insisted on sending their patient back to prison against their professional
advice, tried to make the best of a bad situation by extracting certain
promises from them. In the prison they were to provide medication,
facilities for physiotherapy, ultrasound heat treatment; gym equipment,
and examination and treatment by a specialist doctor when deemed necessary.
To date, only the first of these has been provided, and this of a
They have denied him his right to bail (and therefore freedom), they
are holding him in continuous solitary confinement, and they are depriving
him of his right to proper medical care. Each one of these constitutes
a gross violation of his rights, and a failure to adhere to the country's
own laws, and rules for treatment of prisoners. As in other countries,
our laws clearly lay out the form and quantum of punishment to be
meted out for any crime, but the treatment of Anwar Ibrahim since
his arrest in September 1998 has overstepped those limits time and
time again. It is unbelievably cruel.
Besides a sense of outrage, and pity for Anwar, one also cannot but
feel deep disdain for leaders who have gone to such lengths to wreak
their personal vengeance upon this man, and are pathetic enough to
try and justify it (and stupid enough to think that people will swallow
Not content with abusing the system of justice in their attempt to
destroy Anwar's career, Mahathir's team has backed up efforts on that
front with relentless abuse of the mass media to disseminate lies
and slander about Anwar and his followers. Their desperation, unfortunately
for them, has driven them to bizarre overkill, with the result that
most people simply turn off the TV when the news comes on, or skip
the first five pages or so of the mainstream newspapers - if they
still read them at all.
The latest sickening assault was the broadcast of a pair of special
programmes over the national TV network, aired on two consecutive
evenings earlier this month.
The first programme claimed that Rahim Noor's vicious assault on Anwar
on the night of his arrest was entirely justified since Anwar had
"called him names". Quite apart from the highly questionable reasoning,
this constituted a wanton disregard of Rahim's own testimony before
the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Anwar's black eye, which mentioned
no such calling of names. The inquiry had also brought to light the
fact that Rahim took elaborate care that Anwar, blindfolded (and handcuffed),
would not be aware that he had entered the cell.
Episode Two spent half an hour attempting to persuade viewers that
Anwar is a dangerous religious extremist, with links to others like
him elsewhere in the world. They always claim to have irrefutable
proof, but have yet to submit any of it to public - let alone judicial
- scrutiny. By way of contrast to this dastardly villain, they presented
an as yet unsung National Hero: Tan Sri Rahim Noor. A new myth was
glibly created, that Rahim, practically single-handed, engineered
the peace treaty with the Communist Party of Malaya many years ago.
His assault on the dastardly villain three years ago was presumably
but another heroic act. It was really quite like a soap-opera, especially
in that many viewers knew very well that it was entirely a fantasy.
Enough is enough. Anwar has decided to sue. Malaysians have appreciated,
and been much heartened by, the tentative steps achieved in recent
months towards restoring the good reputation of the Malaysian judiciary.
Hopefully it is time for a little more judicial, as well as public,