Malaysia drifts towards police state as Anwar beaten up by Mahathir's police

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Crescent International

Jumada' al-Akhirah 10, 1419 1998-10-01

South-East Asia

by Crescent International (South-East Asia, Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 15, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1419)

“When former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim was produced in court today, it should be a day of vindication of the rule of law but it has turned out to be a day of shame for the rule of law in Malaysia,” said Lim Kit Siang, Malaysia’s Parliamentary Opposition Leader and secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on September 30.

Anwar was brought to court with a swollen eye and bruises on his right arm, the result of being severely beaten by police when he was first arrested ten days ago.

Press agency AFP has reported that Anwar told the court that he was handcuffed and blindfolded during nine days in detention and that the police “beat him severely, causing serious injuries” until he “virtually passed out until the next morning.”

“I was blindfolded and handcuffed. The moment I arrived at the lock-up, they took off the blinds and the cuffs but a few minutes later, they put it on again,” he told the court.

“I was boxed very hard on my lower jaw and left eye. I was also boxed on the right of my head and they hit me on the left side of my neck very hard,” he said.

“I was then slapped very hard left and right until blood came out from my nose and my lips cracked. Because of this, I could not see and walk properly.”

Anwar said he appealed to police many times for five days to see a doctor but they did not entertain his request. He was moved to solitary confinement on the third day of his arrest and finally an ethnic-Indian doctor briefly inspected him on Friday - the fifth day of his arrest - and gave him some medicine.

Police initially refused to listen to his complaints and only took down a statement from him two days ago, he said.

Earlier he told reporters: “The impact on my neck is hard. I think they tried to send a clear message (for me) to behave and cooperate. The beating has stopped for now.”

AFP also reported that Anwar, who appeared to have lost some weight, said he was kept in a dark room and “moved to and fro from secret hideouts.”

The severity of the beating Anwar suffered when he was arrested on September 20 could be imagined as his swollen eye had not subsided after some ten days, raising the question whether this was the real reason why Anwar was not produced and charged in court the next day as earlier promised by the police.

The condition of Anwar also proved false the public assurances which had been given by the prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad and the Inspector-General of Police, Abdul Rahim Noor that all was well and fine with Anwar during his detention under the notorious Internal Security Act.

All Malaysians are asking one common question: How could they be safe when the former Deputy Prime Minister could be so brutally beaten up in police custody for charges which had not been produced or proved in court?

Mahathir and Rahim owe not only Anwar’s wife and children but also Malaysians and the world a full explanation as to why the former Deputy Prime Minister was brutally attacked like a common criminal while in the custody of the police - as the entire reputation and credibility of the government is at stake as a result of the shocking spectacle of the former deputy prime minister with swollen eyes and bruises on his right arm ten days after being beaten during detention.

Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) leader Dr. Syed Husin Ali - a former detainee under ISA during the seventies - also came out very strongly condemning the police brutality against former DPM. “Dr Mahathir was not telling the truth when he claimed that Anwar could not be brought to court earlier due to street demonstrations. Now the truth has emerged. Clearly the police wanted more time to force out false confession or information from Anwar through torture. The authorities could not wait for evidence of the police brutality to disappear first, because any more delay would further erode the police and Mahathir’s credibility in the eyes of the public.”

“During the initial two months being held under the ISA at the end of 1974, both Anwar and I were subjected to a lot of verbal abuses and shouting, but we were never assaulted physically. Nineteen months after detention, I was taken to an unknown holding centre, put under solitary confinement, abused verbally and tortured psychologically and physically. ISA is a punitive and not a preventive act.

“From what I have heard and read of the treatment meted out to Anwar during the first few days of his detention, it is clear that he has been subjected to worse and more cruel physical torture than what I suffered during my six months of solitary confinement. Have the authorities gone more crazy?” Husin asked.

In another development, the US government urged the Malaysian government to investigate claims by the former Deputy Prime Minister that he was beaten up in custody. US State Department deputy spokesman James Foley said in Washington yesterday: “We are deeply concerned.. by reports of policy brutality during the incarceration of Anwar. All governments have a responsibility to ensure the safety of those being held in prison. These reports should be investigated and, if verified, the perpetrators should be brought to justice.”

The Australian prime minister John Howard had also expressed deep concern over the allegations of police beating of Anwar while under ISA detention, repeating - perhaps confirming his earlier worries of Malaysia moving towards authoritarianism and the “spectre of the apparatus of the state being used to settle political scores.”

Amnesty International has also issued a statement, the third in a week on violation of human rights in Malaysia. Amnesty International expressed “serious concern” about eye-witness testimony of beatings of detained pro-reform protesters.

But ignoring public outcry on this shameful affair, Mahathir came on the television claiming blatantly that Anwar’s injuries could be self inflicted to get public sympathy. This is not only an insult to the intelligence of people but further confirms Mahathir’s vindictiveness and arrogance in the face of international condemnation. As Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah pointed out, it was hard to believe that an ex-medical doctor like Mahathir could bring himself to say such things and it is to his eternal shame that Mahathir though he could convince people with such spurious arguments.

It is clear that Malaysia is drifting towards a police state where the law of the jungle prevails.

Muslimedia: October 1-15, 1998

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