Prisons chief defends decision to bar Mahathir from visiting Anwar


PUTRAJAYA: The Prisons Department today defended its decision not to allow Dr Mahathir Mohamad to visit jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at a hospital in Cheras yesterday, saying the former prime minister should have submitted his application like all others.

Prisons Department director-general Zulkifli Omar said in the past, it had allowed the Selangor menteri besar and Penang chief minister to visit Anwar as they had made prior applications.

“In Anwar’s case, priority is given to Anwar’s family to visit him at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital,” he said in a statement.

At a press conference, Zulkifli added that the decision was made by him and not Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is the home minister in charge of prisons.

He said the decision was due to fear that the meeting would spark “controversy”.

“We have to see the outcome of such a meeting, whether it will create controversy, threats and whether it will go viral and lead to undesirable things,” he said.

Yesterday, Mahathir failed to visit Anwar, who was his deputy when the duo led the government in the 1990s.

“They called me a dictator but I have never done this before and this has never happened before,” said an irate Mahathir after being prevented from meeting Anwar.

Umno leaders, including Prime Minister Najib Razak, his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz had recently visited Anwar, who was recovering from a shoulder surgery.

Mahathir, the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate, said he had gone to thank Anwar for his support.

Zulkifli cited the Prison Act 1995 which says non-family members can be allowed to visit a prisoner if there is a “pressing or important matter”.

Anwar has been serving a five-year jail term over a sodomy conviction, and is expected to be released in June.