(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Yesterday, I expressed regret that the Parliamentary Opposition was not consulted on the composition and the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry into the police assaults on former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim while under police custody until he got a "black eye" and sustained other injuries and that I would suspend judgement particularly on the composition which is of paramount importance if the Inquiry Commission is to gain public confidence.
Various organisations like ALIRAN and many Malaysians have, however, expressed reservations about the composition and the government must take heed of these views so that the Commission of Inquiry would not start off with questions hanging over its head about its legitimacy and general acceptability, whether with regard to the independenc, impartiality or professionalism of any particular member.
The Commission of Inquiry has to accomplish two objectives - to get to the bottom of the truth as to who were the police person or persons who perpetrated the heinous crime of assaulting Anwar in the very inner sanctum of the police high command and dispel reservations and doubts that there is a high-level conspiracy to "cover-up" the scandal of Anwar's "black eye" while under police custody.
For this reason, I call on the Cabinet to appoint two additional members to the Commission of Inquiry after consultation with the Opposition and NGOs so as to secure full public confidence in the Commission of Inquiry.
The law provides that additional members can subsequently be appointed to a Commission of Inquiry. Section 4(1) of the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 provides that the Yang di Pertuan Agong "may, from time to time, add to the persons named in any such Commission". In this case, there should be no problem whatsoever in the addition of another two members as the Commission of Inquiry has not even been officially appointed.
Former Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, who will be conducting the inquiry, said yesterday that he has yet to receive the commission of appointment from the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the terms of reference of the inquiry.
Having wasted more than four months before the Cabinet decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry into Anwar's "black eye" and other injuries sustained while under police custody, the people of Malaysia do not want any more delays and want the Commission of Inquiry to start work immediately, preferably this week itself or latest by next Monday.
There seems to be some doubt as to whether the Commission of Inquiry would be open and public one, and whether its report would be made public. Even worse, there had been a report that the Commission of Inquiry would submit its findings directly to the Attorney-General.
Nothing could be more damaging to the public credibility of the Commission of Inquiry than for it to conduct its proceedings in camera or to raise doubts as to whether its report would be made public.
There should be no ambiguity whatsoever that the Commission of Inquiry would be an open and public, that it findings would be made public simultaneously that it is submitted to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and that it would have untrammelled powers to carry out its term of reference, including summoning the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, the former Inspector-General of Police, the Police High Command as well as Anwar Ibrahim himself to be the star witnesses.
To prevent any doubt and ambiguity, the commission by the Yang di Pertuan Agong appointing the Commission of Inquiry should publicly spell out these requirements and powers.
Section 3 of the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 provides that a commission by the Yang di Pertuan Agong to appoint a Commission of Inquiry shall specify the subject of the enquiry and may "direct whether the enquiry or any part thereof shall or shall not be held in public" and "generally prescribe how the Commission shall be executed".
The Commission of Inquiry should be given a time-frame for the completion of the inquiry, as the case is a very simple and straightforward one, the scene being Bukit Aman lock-up and the potential witnesses being limited only to those who have the highest security clearance to have access to the very inner sanctum of the police high command in Bukit Aman.
The Commission should be required to start its public hearings within a week of its appointment, and it should be given one and at most two months to complete and make public its findings.
I am surprised by the statement issued by the Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah yesterday. Welcoming the setting up of the commission, he said he would consider all evidence adduced by both the commission and the police's Special Investigation Team to determine whether there was a prima facie evidence to warrant the prosecution of any person or any offence under any relevant law.
What is even shocking is his revelation that although he had directed the Special Police Investigation Team headed by ACP Mat Zain Ibrahim to complete its investigations by recording statements from the relevant doctors and nine senior police officers, it has not resubmitted the investigations.
This is because Mat Zain had said on 11th January 1999 that further investigations as directed by the Attorney-General would be completed within five days.
The Commission of Inquiry should investigate why Mat Zain is taking such a long time to complete the further investigations directed by the Attorney-General on 30th December 1998 when he himself had said on January 11, 1999 that it would be completed in another five days, as it involved recording statements by nine top police officers, namely:
(i) Tan Sri Rahim Noor, the then Inspector-General of Police;
(ii) Tan Sri Norian bin Mai, Deputy Inspector-General of Police;
(iii) Dato’ Mohd. Ghazali @ Fauzi bin Yacub, Director of Internal Security and Public Order;
(iv) Dato’ Mohd. Jamil bin Johari, Director of Management, Bukit Aman;
(v) Datuk’ Yaacob bin Mohd. Amin, Director of the Criminal Investigation Department, Bukit Aman;
(vi) Dato’ Mohd. Yusof bin Abdul Rahman, Director of the Special Branch, Bukit Aman;
(vii) Dato’ Kamaruddin bin Ali, Chief Police Officer, Kuala Lumpur.
(viii) Dato’ Ramli bin Yusoff, Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Bukit Aman; and
(ix) Dato’ Meor Chek Hussein bin Mahayuddin, Commander of Police Special Force, Bukit Aman.
The Attorney-General should take into account the findings of the Commission of Inquiry but he cannot pass the buck to the Commission of Inquiry.
As he had directed the Special Investigation Team to complete its investigations, and a month had gone by just to take statements from nine senior police officers, the Malaysian people are entitled to know whether on the basis of the further investigation by Mat Zain, there is a prima facie evidence to warrant the prosecution of any person for Anwar’s "black eye" while under police custody.
If there is such a prima facie evidence, the Attorney-General is duty-bound to initiate such a prosecution without waiting for the Commission of Inquiry to conduct its investigations.