Anadolu Agency (21/3/2016)
Jailed former opposition leader permitted to receive medical treatment from George Washington University, but only at Malaysian hospitals
By P Prem Kumar-
Malaysia’s government announced Monday that it would allow imprisoned former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to seek medical treatment from overseas experts, so long as they conduct the procedures in the Southeast Asian country.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told parliament that the government would permit experts from the medical faculty of George Washington University in the United States to bring any expertise, equipment and medicine into Malaysian government-run hospitals.
“The government has decided that Anwar can be treated by the team from the university’s medical faculty,” said Hamidi, who also serves as home minister.
“He can choose any government hospital in Malaysia to bring the entire team and equipment from there to,” he added, underlining that the country’s current prison laws do not allow convicts to undergo medical treatment overseas.
For months, Ibrahim’s family members — including his wife Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who currently serves as opposition leader — and rights groups have expressed concern that he is not receiving appropriate treatment while serving a five-year term for sodomizing a former aide.
His daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar, also a member of parliament, had earlier told Anadolu Agency that Ibrahim was being denied his civil rights, while his lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah said Ibrahim’s condition had declined to “a worrying stage”.
Minister Hamidi said Monday that the Malaysian government had received three letters — sent by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and the president of George Washington University — requesting immediate medical treatment for Ibrahim.
Hamidi added that U.S. President Barack Obama had also expressed concern over Ibrahim’s health during a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of a summit in Kuala Lumpur last November.
Ibrahim’s family had been verbally informed two weeks ago of the government’s decision — also conveyed to Kerry, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nationals Samantha Power and British Home Secretary Theresa May during recent official meetings with Hamidi.
Hamidi insisted Monday that the government would not neglect any important medical treatment of any prisoners, and would act swiftly based on recommendations by local doctors.
Last January, lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah — who is also a senior opposition figure — had accused the government of not fulfilling its promise to Obama to ensure Ibrahim received proper medical care for his shoulder muscle tear.
“Instead of allowing him to go to a hospital to seek immediate intensive physiotherapy treatment three times a week, the government has limited his access to only once in two weeks,” said Rasiah, who serves as vice president of the People’s Justice Party Ibrahim founded.
“Even then, the doctors visit him in the prison as he is not allowed to go to a hospital.”
Ibrahim has enjoyed huge support among Malaysians since his entrenchment as deputy prime minister in former premier Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s government in 1998.
The opposition leader and Ibrahim’s supporters claim that the case against him for sodomizing Saiful Bukhari Azlan is politically motivated and aimed at stopping him standing in the 2018 general election.
Ibrahim has been the main opponent of the ruling party — which has been in power from the time of independence in 1957 — since falling out with the government in the late 1990s.
The 2013 election saw his opposition coalition come close to unseating the government in what Ibrahim dubbed the “worst electoral fraud in our history”.