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 PM for their respective appointments to the Cabinet that they have been at pains not to question the PM’s “wisdom”.
The PM’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 curiouser and curiouser and reek of political mischief rather than finding the best person for the job.
His latest appointment of the former inspector-general of police (IGP) Abdul Rahim Noor as the special envoy for Malaysia for mediating the peace talks in southern Thailand plagued by an insurgency must be the “curiousest” of all.
Considering the PM is supposed to be working closely with PM-designate Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysians must be wondering whether he consulted Anwar out of basic courtesy in this appointment.
Mahathir might have forgotten the former IGP’s rather blemished record.
To remind Malaysians of the crime that was committed by the former IGP, Rahim slapped, punched and karate-kicked the former deputy prime minister, 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 Anwar.
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.”
His wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, described the two-month jail 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.
At the time, Lim Kit Siang, the DAP chairman, 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”.
First, one wonders how such a former criminal with his 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 PM at least confer with the former IGP’s victim, Anwar, since he is going to be the PM 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 the adviser to Suaram.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.