Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the statement issued on 1 December by PKR’s secretary general, Saifuddin Nasution, denying that the Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, had ordered a police probe against Baling MP Hassan Saad for allegedly calling him an Israeli agent.
LFL finds it surprising that Saifuddin denies that the PM ordered the police probe, while failing to address the fact that the probe came soon after Fahmi Fadzil’s statement that Anwar himself ordered the police to act against those who called him an Israeli agent.
In LFL’s statement on 30 November, we had said that it was an abuse of power for the PM to order police investigations against persons who slander him or call him an Israeli agent, as he is an interested party. We firmly stand by that statement.
It was PKR’s information chief Fahmi Fadzil who made the public statement on 28 November that Anwar had ordered police to investigate those who slander him or call him an Israeli agent. Fahmi’s statement was never rebutted or denied by the prime minister’s office or Anwar himself.
We quote below Fahmi Fadzil’s exact words.
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Anwar has no intention to take action against those who criticise (him or Pakatan Harapan), but we draw the line at slander and accusations of being an Israeli agent. He has asked the police to take action.
Subsequent to the statement by Fahmi Fadzil, police announced that Baling MP Hassan Saad was being investigated by police for allegedly claiming that Anwar is an Israeli agent. Coming soon after Fahmi’s statement, this clearly raised questions and generated a negative public perception of the administration of justice.
It is thus false, misleading and ridiculous for Saifuddin Nasution to accuse us of making an allegation which actually arose directly from a statement made by Fahmi Fadzil, who is his own party colleague.
Hence, Saifuddin Nasution’s statement has created only further confusion.
It is in the public interest that this matter be promptly clarified. The prime minister’s office must now clarify as follows:
- Did the new PM Anwar Ibrahim give an order for police to investigate slander against himself as well as allegations that he is an Israeli agent, as stated by Fahmi Fadzil?
- If yes, does the PM stand by this order or retract it, as it involves a matter in which he is an interested party?
This knee-jerk reaction of resorting to the police is worrying and runs counter to their promise of reform. We reiterate that objectionable, false or even offensive statements, even if directed against the PM, do not warrant criminal investigation. That should only be reserved for statements which incite violence or injury to the public. The PM’s reputation and image are not matters of “national interest and security”, as alleged by Saifuddin Nasution.
Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty
Editor’s note: Anwar has since denied ordering a probe:
“I want to differentiate. Firstly, it is not the order of the prime minister of the government. This is fixed in the Federal Constitution and the strict statement by the Malay Rulers who remarked on the need to be vigilant towards those playing racial sentiments and religious extremism.
“The order was from the Malay Rulers in abiding with the spirit of the Federal Constitution, and this cannot be equated with criticisms towards the prime minister or criticisms towards the government, and I have never ordered, but in fact informed the Inspector General of Police said that criticisms towards the prime minister of the government in a democratic system is permitted and allowed,” he said, adding that similarly, he will also use the space available to answer his critics, as and when needed.