(Penang, Sunday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday he was still studying calls by the opposition to set up an independent commission to look into the beating of former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim after an initial investigation held police responsible for his injuries.
The nation and the world is waiting for the Prime Minister and the Malaysian Government to do the right thing - which is to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" and other injuries while under police custody, as well as police lawlessness in general, and there should be no further delay in the matter.
The first meeting of the reshuffled Cabinet on Wednesday should be the latest for the establishment of such a Royal Commission of Inquiry and it is time that all Cabinet Ministers from all the Barisan Nasional component parties speak up to declare their individual stand on an issue which would decide whether there could be a restoration of public confidence in the independence, impartiality, integrity and professionalism in institutions of government.
Anwar’s "black eye" has now come to symbolise the "black eye" of the Barisan Nasional Government and all Cabinet Ministers, which can only be atoned by a full and public expose of the culprits responsible for perpetrating such lawlessness against the former Deputy Prime Minister in the very inner sanctum of the Police High Command.
The Prime Minister and the Cabinet should realise that public confidence in the independence, impartiality, integrity and professionalism of the public service has reached not only its lowest depth in the 18-year Mahathir rule, but in the entire 42-year year of nationhood since Independence in 1957, that it is not enough that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be set up, but that its composition, terms of reference and powers must be acceptable and credible.
In the past, a Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by a former judge would have been accepted without question or murmur, but this is no more the situation, which is a serious reflection that public loss of confidence in the institutions of government have extended to the judiciary for over a decade.
It is coming to four months since Anwar was first detained and assaulted by the police while in custody on the night of Sept. 20 last year.
Apart from the question of criminal and legal liabilities for Anwar’s "black eye" and other injuries while under police custody, the Malaysian public are entitled to certain basic information based on the principles of accountability and transparency so that they could make up their minds as citizens about the standard and quality of governance in Malaysia.
On Sept. 24 last year, the then Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor announced to the world that Anwar was "safe and sound" since being in police custody since Sept. 20.
Anwar has alleged however that he was assaulted untll he lost consciousness in the Bukit Aman lock-up on the night of Monday, 20th Sept. 1998, and this has been upheld by the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah who declared that the police is fully responsible for the injuries suffered by Anwar while under police custody.
Without waiting for the outcome of police investigations or even a Royal Commission of Inquiry, the Malaysian public are entitled to know whether the former IGP was speaking the truth when he said on Sept. 24 that Anwar was "safe and sound" or whether Rahim Noor knew nothing about Anwar ‘s "black eye" and other injuries until he was produced in court ten days later on Sept. 29?
If the authorities concerned have nothing to hide, there is no reason
why the following information cannot be given immediately to the public
without waiting for the completion of police investigations or the establishment
of a Royal Commission of Inquiry:
How can the Malaysian Government and the Royal Malaysian Police convince the people and the world that they haved nothing to hide when nearly four months after Anwar’s assault, they are unable to answer these two simple questions?
I would seriously urge the new Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi when he assumes office as the new Home Minister in the next few days, to start a new chapter of accountability, transparency and good governance by giving answers to these two questions in his first public pronouncement.