(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday): Whether I institute a mega million-ringgit defamation suit against the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir will depend on my meeting with him after Chinese New Year and his preparedness to admit he had been misled to make baseless allegations against me.
Abdul Kadir had clearly made most defamatory statements against me when he said that I had made "baseless" allegations about the prison conditions of DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, 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".
Many Malaysians were outraged by Abdul Kadir’s preposterous statement and urged me to institute defamation proceedings against the Deputy Home Minister. There were also Malaysians who pledged cash contributions for the suit over the Internet.
Although it is now the trend to institute mega multi-million ringgit defamation suits, to me money is not the most important thing in life - what is more important is the opportunity to effect reform, change and betterment in the lives of Malaysians.
From my own experience, I know that Abdul Kadir as newly-appointed Deputy Home Minister is very “green” about the prison system and conditions, and he was misled with facts and data about prison conditions and life which made him say things which he should have never said but for which he must bear full personal responsibiblity - such as calling me a “liar”.
However, I would hold the Director-General of Prisons, Datuk Omar Mohamad Dan as most responsible for causing the new Deputy Home Minister to make statements which has put not only Abdul Kadir but the entire prisons service in a very bad light.
Abdul Kadir had clearly committed defamation but before I decide whether to instruct my lawyers to file action in the courts, I propose to see Abdul Kadir after the Chinese New Year on the matter.
If Abdul Kadir is prepared to be frank and honest and admit that he had been misled into making those defamatory remarks, I will reconsider my decision to institute legal proceedings against him.
At present, what I would rank as top priority even more important than legal proceedings against Abdul Kadir is wide-ranging prison reforms so that Malaysia’s prisons stop falling below minimum international standards for the treatment of the 27,000 prisoners in the 22 prisons in the country.
I said yesterday that I would be instituting a defamation suit against Utusan Malaysia for a report quoting the Timbalan President of Persatuan Bekas-bekas Polis Malaysia (PBPM), Sheikh Tahir Muhammad, accusing me of not being patriotic for saying that the Malaysian prisons fall far short of the minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners. I will leave this issue to the courts.
Sheikh Tahir had also said that I should apply for permission to make a special visit to all the prisons in the country to see for myself the prison conditions.
It would appear that Sheikh Tahir was speaking with the approval of the Prisons Director-General and I will make such a special application to visit all the 22 prisons in the country with other Members of Parliament, regardless of party, who are interested about prison reforms.
I hope Omar would be more forthcoming and positive this time.
I am surprised that there has been no response from Omar to my various rebuttals to Abdul Kadir about prison conditions. For instance, Abdul Kadir said Guan Eng had received special treatment better than other prisoners, and has been given a prison cell with an attached toilet and that he is imprisoned in a cell normally occupied by three prisoners.
Does Omar agree that all prison cells in Kajang have attached toilets. These attached toilets have no flush and are of the “pour water” type - although it was been reported in some press that Guan Eng’s cell has a “flush” toilet. Guan Eng’s cell also has” attached bath-room facilities” like all other cells, as prisoners must do all their necessities in the cell!
Furthermore, can Omar deny that Guan Eng is not the only prisoner put into a single cell. In his Asingan Security Block, 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 is given a single cell?