I refer to the infamous assault upon Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim while under police custody, which took place 14 years ago today on 20 September 1998. The assault was merciless, life-threatening and disgraced our Nation in the estimation of the world. On the night of 20 September 1998, Anwar was illegally arrested by police special forces acting under the orders of the UMNO-BN government led by then PM Mahathir Mohammad. The arrest and assault was part of UMNO-BN’s conspiracy to fabricate sodomy and corruption charges against Anwar Ibrahim, who had been unlawfully removed as Deputy Prime Minister on 2 September 1998. 14 years later, the circumstances of the assault are still horrifying and remain a national trauma. While helplessly handcuffed and blindfolded, Anwar was punched and slapped repeatedly causing him to fall upon a concrete slab. He was semi-conscious and bleeding from the nose and mouth. Instead of giving him medical assistance, top police officers made him sign the ISA detention order shortly after the assault.
The entire top leadership of the UMNO-BN police force was present at the scene of the assault, but none of them lodged a police report or took any kind action on the assault. Worse, Anwar was denied any kind of medical assistance until 4 days after the assault! And while in this condition, Anwar was even forced to attend interrogations. There is no doubt that PM Mahathir and the top Umno-BN leadership were fully aware of the assault and the conditions in which Anwar was being held. Despite this, on 1 October 1998, then Umno-BN PM Mahathir lied to the public by claiming that the injuries were self-inflicted.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry in its report on 6 April 1999 stated that the assault upon Anwar ‘seared the very soul of Malaysia’. Yet the real culprits behind the assault and subsequent cover-up have never accepted responsibilty or been brought to justice; the real culprits are the UMNO-BN leadership and former PM Mahathir. It is UMNO-BN’s utter disregard for the rule of law and manipulation of the police leadership against Anwar that led to the assault. 55 years of UMNO-BN rule had so damaged police independence and professionalism that top cops allowed this assault to happen and were party to the subsequent cover-up. It is thus a matter of grave concern that the lawless UMNO-BN regime is seeking a fresh mandate from the people of this country. The fabrication of the Sodomy II charges against Anwar in 2008 shows that UMNO-BN has not changed or reformed. The assault upon our former Deputy Prime Minister and countless high-handed actions since then, proves that no Malaysian is really safe under the arbitrary and amoral rule of UMNO-BN. The assault on Anwar by the country’s highest police officer starkly exemplifies the collapse of independent institutions and just governance in Malaysia under UMNO-BN.
Until today, there has been no independent investigation of UMNO-BN’s involvement in the assault and their role in the subsequent cover-up. The ambit of the RCI was limited and determined by the UMNO-BN government. The notorious assault of 20 September 1998, which is burned into the collective memory of this nation, cannot be put to rest until the full extent of UMNO-BN’s involvement is investigated and exposed, and measures for reform are put into place.