COMMENT | Since his assumption to the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s appointments to various posts have been bizarre to say the least.
The “virgin ministers” – as the new Cabinet has been dubbed – have been so thankful to the prime minister for their respective appointments to the Cabinet that they have been at pains not to question his “wisdom”.
The prime minister’s “wise” choices have included the appointment of a fresh graduate, from his own party – with hardly any work experience – as the Youth and Sports Minister. Other appointments have been even more curious and smell of political mischief rather than finding the best person for the job.
His latest appointment of the former inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Noor as the special envoy for Malaysia to mediate the peace process in southern Thailand, is the most curious of all.
Considering the fact that the prime minister is supposed to be working closely with the prime minister-designate Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysians must be wondering whether he consulted Anwar about this appointment, out of basic courtesy.
Dr Mahathir is prone to bouts of amnesia, or rather, selective amnesia, as we have observed in the recent past, so he might have forgotten the former IGP’s rather blemished record.
To remind Malaysians of the crime committed by the former IGP: Rahim Noor slapped, punched and karate-kicked the former deputy prime minister Anwar, causing him to pass out on the floor. Anwar was handcuffed and blindfolded during the attack, which took place on the night he was arrested in 1998. Malaysia's former police chief received a two-month jail sentence for assaulting the former deputy prime minister.
Anwar’s lawyer, the late Karpal Singh said: "I don't think the public will be satisfied with the sentence imposed … This was an assault on a defenceless man who was blindfolded, handcuffed at the back and assaulted, not just anywhere, but in the inner sanctum, the headquarters of the police force."
Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah, described the two-month term for Rahim as "minimal", pointing out that many Malaysians have been sent to jail for longer periods just for taking part in opposition demonstrations.
This atrocity has happened during the first term of the current prime minister. Back then, Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the Democratic Action party, said that comparisons between the treatment of Anwar and his attacker "leave Malaysians with a sense that something is very wrong in their system of justice".
Firstly, one wonders how such a former criminal with a record of uncontrollable violence is qualified to represent the government of “New Malaysia” as our “special envoy”? Is the PM serious when he claims that there is no one else in the country who is capable of doing this job? Should we be celebrating 61 years of independence when our country has failed to produce a single qualified diplomat – other than the former IGP – who can perform the diplomatic task that is needed in the south of Thailand?
Secondly, did the prime minister at least confer with the former IGP’s victim, Anwar, since Anwar is going to be the prime minister-designate very soon? I would be very surprised if Anwar had agreed with this appointment of his former abuser as Malaysia’s special envoy. Do I sense mischief (Thou art afoot…) in all these shenanigans?
This principle of reputation and integrity of our public officials is everything to do with our attempts to create a “new Malaysia”. As the philosopher Christina Turner reminded us: “What’s love (and forgiveness) got to do with it?”
KUA KIA SOONG is Suaram advisor.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.