(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): I am thankful that DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, was taken to the Universiti Kebangsaan Hospital in Cheras yesterday to receive ENT specialist treatment.
The photographs of Guan Eng at the Universiti Kebangsaan Hospital which appeared in Sin Chew Jit Poh today , showing his gaunt and emaciated appearance, bring a lump to the throat of all Malaysians who have known him and even tears to the eyes of many.
They are also clear and incontrovertible proof of Guan Eng's great loss of weight in his nearly six month in Kajang Prison - something which the Director-General of Prisons, Datuk Omar Mohamad Dan had strenously sought to deny right from the beginning, even misleading the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir into make a public statement supporting his web of undeniable denials!
As a first step, Omar should publicly apologize for repeatedly denying that Guan Eng had lost weight, right from his first press conference on Guan Eng's prison conditions on 17th September last year, when he denied that Guan Eng had not lost any weight in his first 22 days in Kajang Prison.
In actual fact, Guan Eng had lost six pounds in his first 18 days in Kajang Prison from August 25 to Sept 11 - which was why Guan Eng's wife, Betty Chew, held a press conference on September 13, 1998 expressing the family's concern about Guan Eng's health. Guan Eng had lost another two pounds in the subsequent four days just before Omar's media conference, making a weight loss of eight pounds in 22 days from August 25 when he first entered Kajang Prison to Sept. 16.
Recently, Omar again misled Abdul Kadir into making a most
preposterous public statement denying that Guan Eng had lost up to 22 pounds
or 10kg, when such an information could be checked from the Kajang Prison
Instead, Abdul Kadir said Guan Eng had only lost 3.5 kg instead of 10 kg. If that was the case, Abdul Kadir would not have walked past Guan Eng’s cell when he went into Blok Asingan (Isolation Block) in Kajang Prison on Feb. 3 to visit Guan Eng as he could not instantly recognise the Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka and had to be told by prison officers that he had walked past Guan Eng!
Now that Guan Eng’s gaunt and emaciated appearance has appeared in the press, Abdul Kadir should realise that the Director-General of Prisons had misled him.
Guan Eng’s receiving treatment by the ear, nose and throat specialist at the Universiti Kebangsaan Hospital at Cheras is one positive outcome of the visit of the new Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir to Guan Eng in Kajang Prison for which I thank him.
However, it is a terrible reflection on the Prisons Director-General that a Member of Parliament could only be given his right to specialist treatment when there is a visit by a Deputy Minister - the first time, for his back pains as a result of having to sleep on the hard cement floor without any mattress, and Guan Eng only received specialist treatment when the Deputy Home Minister Ong Ka Ting visited him at the end of September, and now, getting ENT specialist treatment after a visit by another Deputy Minister, Abdul Kadir in early February.
Although the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tun Mohamed Zahir Ismail had
said that Guan Eng could still attend the next parliamentary meeting
beginning on April 5 if the prison authorities allowed him, I do not expect
the Director-General of Prisons to give his approval as he appears to have
a personal animus against Guan Eng.
This was why Omar had overruled and frustrated the undertaking given by Abdul Kadir when he visited Kajang Prison on Feb. 3 that Guan Eng's family could meet him in a room without separation of a glass barrier so that his three children could touch and embrace him for the first time after nearly six months during the Chinese New Year visit.
What is even more serious, I have reason to believe that not only Abdul Kadir but the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been misled and made to understand that Guan Eng had been allowed to meet his family during the Chinese New Year in a room without a glass barrier and that his three children had been allowed to embrace and touch their father for the first time in nearly six months!
There should be a full investigation as to whether what I said is right, and if so, the most serious disciplinary action should be taken against the Director-General of Prisons for misleading not only the Deputy Home Minister, but the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister himself!
In the Berita Harian front-page today, the Prisons Deputy Director for Public Relations, Jamil Razif Kassim claimed that Guan Eng "diberikan beberapa pengecualian berbanding banduan lain. Sebagai contoh Ahli Parlimen Kota Melaka itu dibenarkan menemui anggota keluarganya dua kali seminggu dan secara bersemuka tanpa sebarang cermin penghadang".
There are two untruths here: It is untrue that Guan Eng receives two family visits a week and it is also untrue that the family visits are held face-to-face without a glass barrier.
The Prisons Director-General should explain why he is conducting a campaign to mislead everybody, whether the Deputy Home Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister or the 22 million Malaysians.
There is clearly an urgent need for wide-ranging penal reforms to ensure that Malaysia’s prisons conform to the minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners and that there shall be no "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of prisoners in Malaysia.
I had called for a meeting in Parliament House of political parties, NGOs and interested Malaysians on prison reforms on Wednesday, March 3, 1999 but so as to give more time, this meeting will now be held on the following week on 10th March 1999 at 10 a.m. instead.