Even before full medical investigations had been completed about the arsenic poisoning of Anwar, the Barisan Nasional leaders had embarked on a major offensive both inside and outside the country to discredit Anwar about the allegation, convincing Malaysians that the government is not prepared to be fair and open-minded on the issue and want to prejudge the whole matter by accusing Anwar of having fabricated or inflicted on himself the arsenic poisoning.
Under these circumstances, can the people be blamed if they have no confidence that there could be independent and fair medical examination and police investigation, if the outcome tallies with the public positions adopted by the top Barisan Nasional leadership?
Last Friday, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi wisely advised all groups including those in the government to wait for the outcome of the probe being conducted by the authorities before making any comment on the Anwar Ibrahim poison issue.
But Abdullah’s advice was contemptuously ignored by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Mahathir Mohamad who has taken his long-running battle with Anwar all the way to New York.
In an interview on Public Broadcasting Station on Monday, Mahathir continued in his attempt to discredit the allegation on Anwar’s arsenic poisoning by claiming that it was a plot to destabilise the government.
This is what Mahathir said:
"Well, the trial was coming to an end. And there was a law conference in KL and Apec was meeting. He brought up this matter 14 days after receiving information there was arsenic in the urine. In the meantime, he was attending court and never complained. He was quite well and yet 14 days later, after the results were known, he decided to bring out the matter just one hour before the prosecution completed its case.
"A person who knows he is being poisoned would run to a doctor, not collect urine and send it to Australia."
I feel very sad to read this extract, for it shows that the Prime Minister has no respect for truth. How can Mahathir continue to claim that Anwar had known about the result of the Australian medical laboratory that he had arsenic poisoning for 14 days before the matter was raised in court, when it has been clearly explained by Dr. Azizah Wan Ismail that this was not the case - that she herself received the report on arsenic poisoning the day before the High Court was informed about it on September 10.
The statement that "A person who knows he is being poisoned would run to a doctor, not collect urine and send it to Australia" is another example that the Prime Minister has no respect for truth, as Anwar did not know he was being poisoned until the day the laboratory report was presented in the High Court itself.
Mahathir’s decision to disregard Abdullah’s advice to all groups including those in the government to wait for the outcome of the probe being conducted by the authorities before making any comment on the Anwar Ibrahim poison issue is the strongest reason why there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s arsenic poisoning - for Malaysians do not expect medical examination and police investigation would be allowed to produce a result which is openly against Mahathir’s public stand on the issue.
The latest evidence of Anwar’s poor health, resulting in the further postponement of Anwar’s trial yesterday, warrants the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into the health and prison treatment of Anwar as well as general prison conditions for all prisoners to ensure they conform with minimum international standards for prisons.