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Anwar Ibrahim's first letter to the Prime Minister of Malaysia:

Translation of Anwar Ibrahim’s letter to Dr Mahathir, dated August 25, 1998.

25 August 1998

The Honourable Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Prime Minister of Malaysia

Prime Minister’s Department

Jalan Dato’ Onn

50502 Kuala Lumpur

I would like to enlighten you regarding the calumnous campaign against me as a person and a politician. I am filled with dejection over the revolting lies that a pack of irresponsible human beings have invented to confuse the people and to inspire doubt in them regarding my character and my morals. They have even raised questions about my loyalty to you, which I have affirmed openly and repeatedly. Considering the method by which these slanders are spread and the timing of their release, I cannot but conclude that they are politically motivated.

I am sorry that for the last couple of weeks I have taken up so much of your time over a matter that has no direct connection with the running of government, what with the country facing an economic crisis. But I am left with no choice. Only the two of us can clarify the muddied waters and untangle the knots. Any interference from any quarter, be it from the political or administrative side, will only aggravate the situation.

The conspiracy to bring me down through calumny began more than a year ago with a poison-pen letter circulated so widely that it reached down even to small Umno branches. Even mosques have not been spared this desecration.

Normally, I would ignore accusations contained in unsigned circulars, but this time they were too offensive to be left unchallenged. I therefore lodged a police report through my aide-de-camp, ASP Zull Aznam Haron, on the 15th of August last year. Following the report, the police arrested and questioned two men—Mohd Taib Salamon and Tan Ah Kow alias Tan Beng Kim—who had impersonated police officers from the Special Branch. The two had detained and intimidated Ummi Hafilda Ali and Azizan Abu Bakar, the supposed originators of the web of lies against me.

I thank you for coming to my defence when the slanderous accusations first caught media notice. I took your advice—although the Attorney-General had a different view at that time—and decided not to let the matter drag, especially because it would involve or implicate personalities in government and politics, such as Tun Zaim Zainuddin, Datuk Megat Junid and Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin. Tun Daim and Datuk Megat Junid wrote to me to deny their involvement in any pact of calumny. (Tun Daim’s letter is appended.)

I had hoped that the smear campaign would then stop. Imagine my consternation when I learned, a few days before the Umno general assembly, that a person by the name of Khalid Jafri had written a book which in part repeated all the poison-pen lies and that the book would be distributed by the tens of thousands at the venue of the assembly. To prevent it, I had no choice but to get a court injunction. Unlike the poison-pen letter, the book carries the names of an author and a publisher, as if daring anyone to challenge the truth of its contents. I had to go to court to make that challenge; otherwise some readers would suspect that there was truth in the book. This issue regarding a campaign to calumniate me has been raised even in Parliament. (See Appendix 2.)

My confidential secretary, Mohd Azmin Ali, made a police report over the distribution of the book, the contents of which are clearly criminally libellous, and I have appointed a lawyer to handle a civil defamation suit against the author and publisher. I have since won an interlocutary injunction, effective until the case is settled. I append here the court’s judgement. (See Appendix 3.)

From the beginning, I have kept the Attorney-General informed of developments in my legal action. It is obvious that he is displeased over my decision to obtain the injunction and to go for a civil suit. I have given him my explanation—that unlike the poison-pen letter, the book has an author and a publisher. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with his guarantee of a thorough investigation to build a case of criminal libel against the author.

And I have promised that I would cooperate with the police. The Inspector-General of Police has assigned a senior officer to lead the investigation and he has repeatedly stated his view that the book’s contents are "tasteless" and "rubbish."

I acknowledge your aversion to the legal steps I have taken. Your opinion is that the book should simply be dismissed for the sham that it is, but I believe I must act because, more than just repeating the poison-pen lies, the book links me with a murder and accuses me of being a foreign agent and conspiring to topple the Prime Minister. In fact, the author and distributor of the book openly contend that my inaction would prove the book’s veracity. They declare confidently that I would never dare drag them to court for fear of exposing my alleged secrets.

I have consistently expressed my confidence in the professionalism of the police and the Attorney-General and in our system of justice. And both the IGP and the AG have assured me of their impartiality.

My lawyers assert that investigations should have easily been carried out according to normal procedure after I had lodged the police report since the "suspects" are known and the defamatory statements they are accused of making are published in a book. The named suspects are the ones who should be subject to police investigation. According to the Information Act, the onus is on them to prove their accusations, to show admissible evidence in court, not rumour, hearsay or fabrications.

But a week after my report was lodged, it became obvious that the police, who should be gathering evidence with which to prosecute the calumniators, were instead looking into my personal affairs. It was as if I had become the suspect. My lawyers advised me to demand an explanation from the IGP and the AG. But I told them I had complete faith in the professionalism and fairness of both officials.

Perhaps I should not expect sympathy from anyone. But I have the right to justice and I am sure that I will receive justice if government agencies are true to the ethics of their various professions. However, their current behaviour indicates some malice towards me. Instead of concentrating on the libellous book, they are now listening to stories churned out by the rumour mill, which is operated by politicians and millionaires who are intent on driving a wedge between the two of us and cutting me down. The stories in the book are submerged and new ones are brought to the surface. It is as if the police have lost their balance. Witnesses are pressured to make statements calculated to shame me. For example, when the police interrogated High Court Judge Ms Zainon Ali regarding her loyalty—whether it was to the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister—they asked her if she had a sexual relationship with me. I cannot yet determine the motive behind such a line of questioning. Before becoming a judge, she was the Registrar of Companies and therefore had a lot of official business with the Ministry of Finance. My relationship with her, as with other officials, was strictly business.

I see a picture of contradictions emerging, one that is unsettling. I do not object to the raid of Datuk Nalla’s house and his arrest on the justification that these would help the police in their investigation. But I have since received information that the idea was to extract a confession from him that would incriminate me in activities that are immoral and disgraceful. After I had spoken to you about this, you told the IGP to give me an explanation. I am grateful for that favour, but when the IGP met me he said only that the case was complex and investigations would continue. At the end of our meeting, he said it would be best for me to settle my political differences with you personally.

As you are aware, all those lies alleging immoral conduct on my part are said to have originated from information given by Ummi and Azizan. It is also claimed that the circulated poison-pen letter is a true copy of a letter Ummi wrote to you. You will remember handing over to me Ummi’s original letter and instructing me to "read and destroy."

It is obvious that the poison-pen circular is not the letter Ummi wrote to you. She has confirmed this herself. (See Appendix 6.) In a letter to Azmin, she denies that she is the source of the calumny alleging that I had an affair with Syamsida. (See Appendix 4.) She has made a similar denial in a letter to me (see Appendix 5) and again in a sworn statement (Appendix 7). I vehemently reject this evil slander. Now the calumniators have spun another tale—that Ummi was forced to make those statements of denial. This despite the distances in time and space that separate those denials and the similarity of their essential contents. I never met Ummi to pressure or cajole, or even to request an explanation for her calumny.

The same is true with Azizan, who is alleged to be the source of the lies about a homosexual relationship. He came to the Treasury last month to see me, but I declined. There is a story that I tried to buy him over with a lucrative government contract. This is nothing but a cheap lie. He eventually succeeded in seeing me by going through ASP Zull Aznam. In our meeting, he wept and swore that he was not involved in the writing of the book, despite its suggestion to the contrary. He said he knew that I had nothing whatsoever to do with the accident that resulted in his wife’s death, and he swore that he would maintain that assertion. He has written a letter of denial and a sworn statement. (See Appendices 8 and 9.) I am certain that the author of the book would not have made up such wild and fantastic accusations if he were not sponsored by influential personalities willing to pay him huge sums of money.

I have indicated above that there is a factory churning out these lies. As if the calumnous tales affecting Ummi and Azizan are not enough, a new story is produced. And there is no lie more hurtful to me--and the others who are implicated—than the one that says I have fathered an illegitimate child. It shocked me to hear the police suggest that I undergo a DNA test. This was precisely the challenge that Khalid Jafri made in a press statement. My lawyers protested, saying that the police were being ridiculous because, according to the law, the burden of proof was on Khalid Jafri to support his allegations with evidence, not the other way around. In other words, since it is Khalid Jafri who is making the allegations, it is he who must prove them. (See Appendix 10.) But to me this is more than just a legal issue. It is an issue affecting my dignity. Eventually, my lawyers agreed to the DNA test but proposed that it would be sufficient to carry out the test on Azmin, his wife and the affected child to confirm that the child issued from them. Praise be to God, it was thus confirmed. The Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding, himself telephoned me to give the good news.

But now telephone conversations from my home, which are recorded by the police, have become an issue. I am accused of being a foreign agent. Before this, I was called an Islamic and Malay-language extremist. You are wiser in matters regarding labels; so I am taking your advice to ignore such accusations.

Many stories are weaved regarding the role of Datuk Nalla, indeed about all the friends I play tennis with, including Datuk Ghazi Ramli, the late Datuk Wan Adli and several of my officers. I play tennis once or twice a week at the Tropicana, Kiara or Bangsar. There are stories that have been concocted about activities besides tennis during my tennis hours, complete with the name of a woman, a car registration number and an apartment number at Tivolli Villa. They are all lies. I play tennis openly, not in secret, beginning around 6.15 p.m. and stopping before the maghrib prayers, although I would sometimes stop for maghrib and continue a game afterwards. Every time I play, there are policemen posted outside the court. My tennis games are never played in secret and they are always under police watch.

I have also been accused of meeting a woman at the Flamingo Hotel, a place I have never set foot on. And I have been to the Tivolli Villa only twice--accompanied by Azizah--to visit my adopted sister, Sukma. With a conspiracy plotted so well, I will not be surprised if there emerges another "confession" by another paid woman.

I have been told that I may be charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). What a baffling thought! To charge under this act a person who holds the second most important position in government is nothing short of insulting. If it was true that government secrets had leaked, this would be the first time in history that the immediate suspect was the DPM.

Lately, some people have become uncomfortable with me because it seems I was the one who directed the Anti-Corruption Agency to investigate the Director-General of the Economic Planning Unit. I deny issuing the order. True, the ACA Director had informed me about the impending investigation, but I asked if the Prime Minister had been advised beforehand. He said the Prime Minister had been informed. I have been similarly accused of ordering an anti-corruption investigation against the IGP and the AG.

Thus my clarification. I know that even at this moment, more lies are being manufactured for consumption throughout the country. I am unsettled by the tone of the current investigations and many of my friends have advised that I should turn to the Prime Minister and seek his help in resolving this problem in the best possible manner. I leave it all to your wisdom and sense of justice. We go back a long way in a common struggle and we trust each other. We have together faced so many political challenges. You were the one who brought me into active work in Umno, nurturing and guiding me, and opening up for me opportunities for advancement until I have come to occupy my current position. I am not one who would easily forget kindness. Every time your position has been threatened, I was the first to come to your defence, no matter how serious the situation. My loyalty is intact. Please do not let the lies of the envious cause you to doubt it. They are but a political conspiracy. (See Appendix 11.)

I thank God the Almighty for giving me fortitude and patience in the face of this calumny. I know that the slandering will continue and that my protection is in God alone. I am grateful that Azizah remains strong as do friends who unceasingly pray for me. I will never forget them.

Yours truly,


(Anwar Ibrahim)