(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): SAC II Mat Zain Ibrahim, the head of the Special Police Team investigating the police assault on former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim while he was in police custody last September, said yesterday that his team hoped to complete its task by the weekend.
The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah had announced last Tuesday that he was not satisfied with the investigation by the Police Special Investigation Team as it was incomplete, and he had directed it to further its investigations by recording statements from nine top officials of the police high command, including the then Inspector-General of Police, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, and the four Directors of Special Branch, Internal Security and Public Order, Management and Criminal Investigation Department.
The question at issue is what is the purpose of the Special Investigation Team continuing with its probe if the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is serious about considering the Opposition call for an independent commission of inquiry into the police beating of Anwar while in police custody?
The Malaysian public and the international community cannot accept that there could be any justice or satisfactory outcome in a comparatively junior police officer investigating police lawlessness at the police high command when all top police officers are superiors of the investigator.
This may be the reason why the police dare not reveal the full composition of the Police Special Investigation Team, for it would reveal other members of the team who are even of more junior rank than their head, further undermining public confidence in the independence, integrity and professionalism of the Malaysian police in criminal investigations and enforcements.
The Cabinet meeting tomorrow should end the debilitating loss of public confidence in the government as a result of foot-dragging to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into police brutality of Anwar as well as police lawlessness in general, and all Malaysians look forward to a forthright announcement tomorrow about the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to end all nagging questions about a major cover-up in connection with Anwar’s "black eye".
Tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting will be a great test for every Cabinet Minister, as to whether they are just "dead wood" numb, deaf and utterly insensitive to the feelings of Malaysians on the ground or alive to the troubled concerns of Malaysians about the erosion of the independence, impartiality, integrity and professionalism of institutions of government and are prepared to decide on the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" and police lawlessness.
My attention has been drawn to a letter to the Thai newspaper, The Nation, yesterday by Wan Napsiah Salleh, Counsellor of the Malaysian Embassy to Thailand under the heading "Senseless criticism of Mahathir and Malaysian police" in response to a critical editorial of Mahathir and the Malaysian police over Anwar’s "black eye" and other injuries while under police custody.
The Nation, Bangkok editorial of 8th January 1999 under the heading "Police bruised by Anwar's black eye", had stated:
"No one, other than Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, should be surprised by the confirmation that the police are, after all, responsible for Anwar Ibrahim's black eye. What many find surprising, however, is that the three-month-long investigation has failed to identify the assailants. It was, as opposition leader Lim Kit Siang put it, ‘a crime without criminals'.
"Yesterday, police chief Abdul Rahim Noor resigned to take full responsibility for Anwar's injuries. But, if by quitting, Rahim and his political masters think they can assuage the growing anger of Malaysians, they are dead wrong. Anwar's assailants must be found and punished."
Wan Napsiah Salleh had responded:
"Despite your criticism of the Malaysian police, one must never disregard the larger role they continue to play in maintaining law and order in which all Malaysians have benefited. The decision taken by the inspector general of police to resign in the wake of the attorney general's statement that the police were fully responsible for the injuries inflicted on Anwar, shows that there remains a high degree of police professionalism in Malaysia despite your insinuation to the contrary. His gesture is indeed rare especially in this part of the world.
"No doubt the investigation into the injuries sustained by Anwar had taken some time but one must understand that the file submitted by the Special Investigation Team contains exhaustive statements taken from 67 witnesses including Anwar, three doctors and 63 members of the police force. This indicates that it has been a painstaking and arduous investigation by the police to find the perpetrators. We reject your claim that the police are unable to solve the case.
"The perpetrators will be brought to justice once the attorney general has completed his investigation into the report by the Special Investigation Team and once he is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence disclosing a prima facie case against any persons."
It is most shocking how the Malaysian Embassy in Thailand can use the case of Anwar Ibrahim’s "black eye" and other injuries while under police custody to lay claim to police professionalism in Malaysia, when the Attorney-General had expressed his dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the police in producing an incomplete report, having to direct that statements should be recorded from the top police high command.
If there is high police professionalism in the case of Anwar’s "black eye" and other injuries while under police custody, there would not be a crisis of confidence in the Royal Malaysian Police where the claim of Tan Sri Rahim Noor that he was resigning as Inspector-General of Police to "assume full responsibility" for the police assault on Anwar is generally disbelieved.