KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has denied the Prisons Department was ordered to stop Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad from visiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in hospital.
The Star reported that he denied giving any such order, adding that the decision was made entirely by the department.
“The decision did not come from the minister. On operational matters, I give my full trust to the departments under the Home Ministry,” said Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, at a press conference after his ministry’s monthly assembly today.
Prisons director-general Datuk Seri Zulkifli Omar, who was also at the press conference, added that the department did not receive any formal application from Dr Mahathir for the visit.
“The decision (to disallow Dr Mahathir’s visit) was made based on prison rules. There was no official application from Dr Mahathir.
“If there was an application, it could have been considered, but that is still subject to approval. In the past when he (Anwar) received visitors, formal applications were made.
“According to Section 26 of the Prisons Act, when a prisoner is in a hospital, it is still like he is in prison. Therefore, he remains governed by prison rules, and any approval for visits can only be given by the prison.
“Family members are allowed to visit prisoners in the hospital. However, other visitors require special permission,” he said.
Zulkifli added that the department has the authority to deny visits for safety reasons.
Yesterday, Dr Mahathir, who is Pakatan Harapan chairman, arrived at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital where he was welcomed by Anwar’s daughter, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.
However, after meeting prison officials, the former prime minister was told he was not allowed to see Anwar.
According to The Malaysian Insight, a fear of controversy prompted the department to disallow the meeting in the hospital yesterday.
The English news portal reported Zulkifli saying Dr Mahathir did not apply formally to visit Anwar and the officer in charge of Sungai Buloh prison was worried that there would be negative implications from the visit.
“The decision is the jurisdiction of the officer in charge of the Sungai Buloh prison. There was a worry from the prison itself, if we allowed them to meet, it might have been controversial.
“We are also worried about the safety and threats faced. There was a worry that this issue will also become viral,” Zulkifli said in the press conference in Putrajaya today.