COMMENT | Very few images have continued to haunt Malaysians over the decades but one of it is undoubtedly that of Anwar Ibrahim’s black eye in 1998.
Swollen in black with laces of red and purple, the bruised eye told us what was wrong with the country. The pain felt by the heart upon seeing that image was a dreadful emotional tug that reverberated “injustice”.
If a former deputy prime minister could be treated this way, what more a common man without status, power, and privilege?
The inspector-general of police (IGP) at that time was Abdul Rahim Noor. It was under him that masked and armed security police stormed Anwar’s house and forcibly arrested him. Anwar was then taken into police custody where he was severely beaten.
Revisiting the incident
The following is a recollection of events based on the book ‘The Prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim: The Final Play’ by Mark Trowell and an article by BBC.
What happened on the night of Sept 20, 1998, was recounted by Anwar to judge Hasnah Hashim:
“I was asked to stand up and I was boxed hard on the left temple and the right part of my head. I was hit very hard on the left part of my neck. I was then slapped very hard left and right, until blood seeped from my nose and lips”.
A government forensic report in 1999 confirmed this, stating that Anwar was indeed “hit by a blunt object at least four times on the head and neck and slapped at least twice”.
Junior police officers who couldn’t bear with what they saw quickly rushed to help Anwar, many with tears in their eyes. The injuries could have been lethal. Without their help, Anwar could have died.
All requests for medical attention were dismissed. Anwar was left lying on the floor, unconscious.
Meanwhile, Rahim told the press that Anwar was safe in custody and assured the public he was in good condition. He lied.
The then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the media played up the narrative that Anwar injured himself. Rahim even said that Anwar fell over a concrete slab.
It was only in March 1999 that Rahim admitted to a Royal Commission of Inquiry that it was he who assaulted Anwar in police custody.
After pleading guilty in an ensuing court case, Rahim was fined RM2,000 and sentenced to two months in jail — a sentence which Anwar's lawyer Karpal Singh called “manifestly inadequate”...