(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): I am making this urgent open appeal to the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to leave clear instruction before leaving for his three-day visit to Singapore tomorrow that former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should not be transferred back to a smaller cell in the Sungai Buloh Prison from the Kuala Lumpur Hospital until full completion of treatment for his spinal problem.
Anwar Ibrahim's family, in a statement issued yesterday through Anwar’s solicitor, S. N. Nair and Partners, said Anwar is facing imminent transfer back to Sungai Buloh Prison to a new jail cell that is smaller than the previous one though surgery has not yet been performed on him.
This new cell is normally reserved for violent criminals and psychopaths as a form of punishment.
This instruction, said Nair, came soon after the Home Minister's political and private secretaries visited the prison last week.
The panel of doctors attending to Anwar had recommended that Anwar’s jail cell be equipped with a pipe and toilet that would be more appropriate for someone with a back condition. The Home Ministry then instructed the prison authorities to fit the smaller cell with the required facilities and used this as an excuse to transfer Anwar to the smaller cell.
Nair had written to the hospital on 5 and 22 February requesting surgery for Anwar. The letters also requested permission for a German specialist to see Anwar. To date, however, the request has not met with any response from the hospital.
A neurosurgeon, Dr Halili Rahmat, one of the doctors attending to Anwar, has confirmed that the seven specialists are unanimous in their decision that Anwar requires immediate surgery to correct his spinal problem.
Dr. Halili said: “After two months of non-surgical treatment, Anwar’s condition has not improved. Anwar is clearly in great pain due to pressure being subjected on his nerve. All of us unanimously agree that immediate surgery is required to correct the problem.
“But it is not as simple as that. There are three different types of surgery that can be considered - conventional open surgery, endoscopic surgery and microscopic surgery. It is up to the patient and the family to decide on which technique they want. This is their right.
“The trouble is, while the conventional open surgery technique is available locally, the other two techniques are still new to Malaysia and we don’t know much about them. Our professional opinion is we should invite the German expert to Malaysia so that he can examine Anwar and review the situation. We won’t know which surgical technique is best for Anwar until the German spine specialist examines Anwar.”
If during Abdullah’s three-day official visit to Singapore, Anwar is denied full completion of treatment of his spinal problem and sent back to Sungai Buloh prison from the Kuala Lumpur Hospital to a smaller cell, it would smack of personal vindictiveness on Abdullah’s part as the Minister in charge of Prisons Department and would fuel a national and international outrage highly detrimental to Abdullah’s image and reputation - and would even spoil his first official visit to Singapore.
The national and international furore that could ensue from such a reckless disregard of the medical interests of Anwar would be reminiscent of the furore after Anwar received the black eye and other injuries from the former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, when handcuffed and blindfolded in the Bukit Aman police headquarters lock-up. It would remind Malaysians and the world that although Anwar had been in prison for 870 days, the former No. 1 Policeman has not served a day or even a second in jail for his crime yet.
I urge Abdullah to be considerate and to approve Anwar family’s request to allow the German expert to come to Malaysia to examine Anwar, especially as he is an experienced doctor in endoscopic microsurgery, which is a new surgery technique that allows for a minimum risk for patients, having conducted about 6,000 such surgeries with a 90 percent success rate and demonstrate that he represents a more compassionate government when he takes over as Prime Minister.