(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The International Herald Tribune today reported that "high aides" to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad had asserted that the Prime Minister did not know about Anwar's injuries until the former deputy prime minister appeared in court on Tuesday to be charged, 10 days after the beating was said to have occurred.
The International Herald Tribune reported the aide to the Prime Minister
as saying that Mahathir was "angry" when he learned of the incident.
Mahathir should let Malaysians know whether it is true that he did not know about Anwar’s injuries until the former Deputy Prime Minister was produced in court on Tuesday, 10 days after the beating.
I do not rule out the possibility that Mahathir had not been privy to the information that Anwar had been brutally beaten up while in police custody, but this raises alarming questions about the state of governance in Malaysia.
Even if Mahathir had not known earlier about Anwar’s injuries while under police custody, this cannot exonerate him from full responsibility as Home Minister for the physical harm visitied on the former Deputy Prime Minister especially as both he and the Inspector-General of Police had given public assurance that Anwar was "safe and sound" while in police custody.
The question Malaysians are entitled to ask is whether Mahathir had taken a "hands-on" or "hands-off" approach in the police handling of the arrest of Anwar Ibrahim.
In an "hands-on" approach, Mahathir would be involved or consulted on every stage and step of police action on the Anwar case, including the decision to arrest Anwar on the night of Sept. 20; the use of the special police elite squad in black balaclavas and armed with machine guns to storm Anwar’s house and to break down the door to effect an entry to arrest the former Deputy Prime Minister, as if taking a terrorist hideout, when earlier Anwar’s lawyers have written to the police assuring Anwar’s full co-operation in the event of any arrest.
In an "hands-off" approach, Mahathir would have given full mandate to the Police to carry out its operations against Anwar without having to refer to him first.
If Mahathir had adopted a "hands-on" approach, there is no reason why he did not know about Anwar’s injuries while in police custody, and his press conference statement yesterday becomes most extraordinary and astounding.
Mahathir said in his press conference yesterday that there was no advantage to be gained for the police to beat a person up to extract a confession, and especially in Anwar’s case when they knew he would be brought to court in full public view and that they would be accused of being responsible.
Actually nobody knew whether and when Anwar would be produced in court. Could it be that when Anwar was first arrested, there was no intention to produce Anwar in court until at least until close to the end of the 60-day interrogation custody under the Internal Security Act and that Anwar had to be finally produced as a result of a combination of internal and international pressures?
I am very disturbed by the use of the special police elite squad in black balaclavas and armed with machine guns to storm Anwar’s house and to break down the door to effect an entry to arrest the former Deputy Prime Minister, as if taking a terrorist hideout, when earlier Anwar’s lawyers have written to the police assuring Anwar’s full co-operation in the event of any arrest. Would such a police mentality on the night of Sept. 20 be compatible with the police brutality against Anwar on the night of his arrest?
In his press conference yesterday, Mahathir said there had been no reports previously of any ISA detainee being assaulted by the police, refering to me as well as Anwar in his earlier ISA arrest.
I have stated publicly that in both my two previous ISA detentions I had not been subject to police brutality or violence, but Mahathir is wrong when he said that there had been no previous reports of police brutality against ISA detainees. Parti Rakyat Malaysia President, Dr. Syed Husin Ali, had written about how he was physically assaulted when he was in detention under the ISA, and during the Operation Lalang dragnet, several ISA detainees had subsequently made affidavits about the ordeal of torture and police brutality that they suffered during the first 60 days ISA detention for police interrogration and these are all public documents.
I am shocked that Mahathir could be so ill-informed as to state publicly that there had been no reports previously of any ISA detainees being assaulted by the police, which shows that he is quite cut off from what is happening on the ground to the ordinary people.
A full investigation into Anwar’s claim that the police beat him up while in detention under the ISA must include a inquiry as to whether Mahathir had adopted a "hands-on" or "hands-off" approach in the police arrest of Anwar Ibrahim as well as when Mahathir first came to know about Anwar’s injuries.
This is why the public and the world community cannot have confidence if such an investigation is conducted by the police itself, and why Mahathir must agree to the establishment of special investigators who are not from the police.
This is also why Mahathir’s insinuation that Anwar’s injuries could be self-inflicted or even the result of provocation to the police sounds like a condonation of any police bruality perpetrated on Anwar, and detracts from his statement that the government would not accept the police beating up the people they were interrogating under any circumstances.