(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Last Thursday,
the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir who visited DAP
Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, in his Kajang
Prison cell the previous day, said that I had made "baseless" allegations
about Guan Engís prison conditions to gain "political mileage and
publicity by tarnishing the image of the government" and that
my allegations were "merely lies which were unfair to the prison officers who were serving with much dedication".
Abdul Kadir also claimed that Guan Eng informed him that he was not facing any problem, "contrary to allegations by his father, Lim Kit Siang", that he was happy with his conditions in Kajang Prison and that Guan Eng "even admitted that he was given good treatment by the prison authorities".
Last Friday, I had rebutted Abdul Kadirís statement and said that I stand by every word that I have said about Guan Eng in Kajang Prison and I challenged Abdul Kadir to produce Guan Eng at a media conference for the world to see whether he would endorse the Deputy Home Ministerís account or to hold an inquiry as to whether every word that I have said about Guan Eng in Kajang Prison can be proved.
Yesterday, when I visited him in Kajang Prison, Guan Eng was outraged by Abdul Kadirís statement and he wanted it to be known that the new Deputy Home Minister should be "ashamed of himself" for claiming that he had agreed that I was lying in my public statements on Guan Engís prison conditions. Guan Eng wanted to specifically stress that such claims by Abdul Kadir is completely false.
Guan Eng described what Abdul Kadir had done as "irresponsible actions" intended to deceive the public into thinking that he had received a special treatment better than other prisoners.
Datuk Kader had claimed that Guan Engís prison cell possessed an attached toilet and that he was imprisoned in a cell normally occupied by three prisoners.
Guan Eng told me yesterday that all prison cells in Kajang have attached toilets. These attached toilets have no flush. They are definitely not the Ďhotel standardí definition of attached toilets. Datuk Kader can imagine the prison odour environment with restricted ventilation.
However, Guan Eng is not the only prisoner put into a single cell. In the Asingan Security Block where Guan Eng is jailed, 25 cells are presently occupied. Only two cells have more than one prisoner in a cell. The other 23 prison cells contain a single prisoner. In what manner then has Guan Eng been given special treatment when like 92% of prisoners in his block, he has been given a single cell?
It is most mischievous for Abdul Kadir to suggest otherwise in an attempt to mislead the public that Guan Eng enjoy special treatment.
Guan Eng told me that he had in fact remarked to Abdul Kadir when the Deputy Home Minister visited him in Kajang Prison that Abdul Kadir could see for himself that there was no water bed in his cell. Until now, Guan Eng enjoy no special favour compared to other prisoners.
Abdul Kadir should have realised this when Guan Eng had to request his approval for an ENT specialist to treat a swelling in his nose that caused severe migraine.
Guan Eng found it outrageous that he only managed to see the orthopaedic specialist after a visit by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Ong Ka Ting last year and the ENT specialist after the visit by Abdul Kadir. He had never developed such problems before being imprisoned.
On both occasions, Guan Eng had been diagnosed with a genuine complaint the extent of seriousness still to be determined.
Guan Eng finds it most unacceptable that he could only obtain specialist medical attention when he was lucky enough to have a Deputy Minister to visit me!
Guan Eng said the prison doctor had tried to do his best for him, but it was clearly not good enough to get him referred for specialist treatment without the intervention of the two Deputy Home Ministers.
Yesterday, Guan Eng said he wanted the people and country to realise that the need for prison reforms is real and urgent and what I had made public about prison conditions is "only the tip of the iceberg". He hoped that Abdul Kadir could address the concerns he had raised with him during the Deputy Home Ministerís visit with the Prison Director-General Datuk Omar Dan.
Guan Eng feels that the most important task of a new Deputy Home Minister is to restore confidence in security establishments whose image has been severely tarnished by widespread abuse of power and unlawful actions. He regrets that Abdul Kadirís actions have instead served to erode further public confidence by trying to cover up such wrongs and abuses.
He felt that Malaysians should not forget that "the greatness of a nation is measured not by how well the rich and powerful lives, but how the poor, down-trodden and oppressed are treated in slums and prisons". By such a yardstick, Malaysia clearly falls short. There is a need for real seriousness of purpose and sincerity on the part of all quarters in Malaysia to make Malaysia a better place for the poor, unfortunate and disadvantaged.
I thank Abdul Kadir for visiting Guan Eng in Kajang Prison and for enabling him to see an ENT specialist, but he owes me and Guan Eng an open apology for the baseless statements and allegations he had made against me or attributed to Guan Eng.
Abdul Kadir and the Malaysian public has been misled not only about Guan Engís prison condition, but about the conditions in all the prisons in the country which need wide-ranging reforms. I hold the Director-General of Prisons, Datuk Omar Mohamad Dan responsible for misleading the new Deputy Home Minister about the urgent need for radical prison reforms in Malaysia so that they comply with minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners.
Instead of being an advocate for prison reforms in his capacity as the Director-General of Prisons, Omar Dan seems to be the biggest stumbling block for Malaysia keeping abreast with latest developments in penal reforms to at least keep up with minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners.
I hope Omar Dan would have the courage of his convictions and accept the invitation to attend the meeting of political parties, NGOs and concerned Malaysians on prison reforms which I am convening at Parliament House on Wednesday, 3rd March 1999 at 10 a.m. to show and share his vision and philosophy about prison reforms.
Omar Dan had given the world a very bad impression when the Inter-Parliamentary
Union sent a fact-finding mission to Malaysia to collect information on
Guan Engís case and I hope he would be able to give Malaysian MPs, political
parties, NGOs and the Malaysian people a better impression at the meeting
on prison reforms in Parliament on March 3, 1999.