The Ignored Issue of Dato'
Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Right to Medical Treatment.
Political Education Unit of
the Institute for Policy Research (UPP-IKD)
The Tun Daim fiasco, Chinese Press take-over
and the imminent UMNO General Assembly have induced the media
into a hive of activity recently. Nonetheless, one issue remains sidelined despite the enormity of its significance. Little has been done about Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI)'s worsening spinal condition despite repeated claims to his right of his choice of medical
treatment. The bold statement released by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) on 31st May 2001 concerning this issue presents a light at the end of the tunnel as it is perceived as a landmark in Malaysia's long struggle for greater democracy and human rights.
Many salient points were highlighted in the statement
by SUHAKAM. One of these was the existence of a law that provides prisoners
the chance to travel overseas under the discretion of the DG of Prisons. Additionally,
it is a fact that DSAI is liable for
bail and thus under ordinary circumstances would be able to seek medical treatment overseas. Most importantly, is SUHAKAM's acknowledgement that from the medical, legal and human rights perspectives there should be no question that DSAI be allowed to choose his preferred medical treatment.
However, in spite of all this, the DG of Prisons has recently rejected DSAI's application to be released from prison to seek medical treatment. His excuse does not hold water and cannot be bought by the public. This rejection has crushed the hopes of
many Malaysians as it has serious implications for the future of our nation in terms of greater executive accountability.
Since DSAI was sent back to prison one month
ago while still suffering from a serious spinal injury, the treatment he has
received there has been appalling to say the least. Because of his worsening
back pain and deteriorating health, regular medical check-ups are increasingly
necessary. Unfortunately, contrary to arrangements agreed upon prior to his
return to prison, DSAI has not been examined by any of the doctors that comprise
the panel appointed to care for him on a regular basis. This is evidence that
the promises from relevant authorities for adequate care and treatment were
merely lip service. The only care
he receives is daily visits by a hospital assistant.
DSAI has not undergone any physiotherapy either,
although this was agreed to as part of his conservative treatment. Equipment
purchased for this purpose has not been assembled in Sungai Buloh Prison for
the full conservative treatment to be
administered. Considering doctors have pronounced DSAI's condition as critical and liable to lapse into emergency at any time, this behavior is hardly befitting of the medical profession. To top it all off, DSAI is under excruciating pain and relieved only
by strong painkillers which have brought about noticeable side effects of water and sodium retention and swelling of his fingers. This was only found out when doctors examined him for the first time since his return to prison, two days before the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) visited him.
The disappointing decision made by the DG of
Prisons to reject DSAI's application is reprehensible. The DG should base his
decision on SUHAKAM's findings and not be pressured politically into making
predisposed judgements. The paramount consideration should be DSAI's health
and not trivial, technical issues. His decision directly contradicts the recommendations
SUHAKAM and clearly overrides the bigger human rights issue i.e. the right to treatment of choice of an ailing patient.
DSAI's life very much depends on the developments
in the next few weeks. He is at great risk of paralysis merely for standing
up for his rights. It is hoped that the plight of DSAI will not be taken lightly
considering SUHAKAM has come up with a strong
statement regarding this matter.
In the light of the DG's rejection of his application, DSAI has proceeded to take court action, which will inevitably prolong the wait for urgent spinal surgery. But who can blame him, seeing as his basic rights have been conveniently and consistently denied.