Thursday, July 31, 2008

Year 2003: Umno tried to buy Ezam over

FAC News - Friday, June 27, 2003 5:48 PM

Umno tried to buy Ezam over

The National Justice Party Youth Leader, Ezam Mohd Nor, has admitted that Umno sent him feelers while he was in prison.

Speaking to a crowd of about 500 supporters at the home of party President, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Ezam said, first they separated him from the rest of the Reformasi Six so that they could get him alone. Once he was isolated from the rest, they worked on him to try to woo him over.

Ezam said he was quite surprised at the speed his Official Secrets Act (OSA) trial developed. Ezam was then already under Internal Security Act (ISA) detention in the Kamunting Detention Camp together with Saari Sungib, Tian Chua, Dr Badrulamin Bahron, Lokman Noor Adam and Hishamuddin Rais.

Once the conviction was secured, Ezam was immediately transferred to the Kajang Prison to start serving his two-year jail sentence, the first time in the 43-year history of the ISA that a detainee had to simultaneously serve both an ISA detention and a jail term.

Then Ezam realised why they had hurriedly separated him from the rest for, once he was isolated, Umno made its move to try to woo him over.

Ezam said he received all sorts of approaches from Umno asking him to switch camps and abandon his “struggle to free Anwar Ibrahim from jail”.

In fact, said Ezam, his entire initial 60-day detention under the ISA, before he was sent to Kamunting, was centred on Anwar Ibrahim and not once was he interrogated about his alleged “crimes”.

Ezam and nine other party leaders and Reformasi activists were detained in April 2001 for allegedly being a threat to national security. According to the official statement released by the government, they had conspired to topple the government through violent and militant means and were involved in a plot to bring in bombs, guns, grenade launchers and Molotov Cocktails.

However, the entire 60 days interrogation was on party matters and the police tried to convince Ezam to abandon his struggle and rejoin Umno. After failing to woo him over, the police finally tried to persuade Ezam to just abandon Anwar Ibrahim.

Ezam said, the police told him he could remain in the National Justice Party and continue to oppose the government. However, he must not mention Anwar’s name in any of his speeches. In short, Ezam may continue his opposition party activities but these should not include the struggle to free Anwar.

Ezam also said they tried to convince him that Anwar was in fact guilty of all the sexual crimes he was alleged to have committed and that the police had all the evidence to support these charges.

“Until the last day of my 60-day detention the police never once produced this evidence,” said Ezam.

“When I asked them on the last day of my detention, the day before I was transferred to Kamunting, where this so-called evidence was, they replied that it was of no use showing me this evidence as I would not believe it anyway.”

Ezam said they went to great lengths to persuade him to change sides. When they failed, they compromised by agreeing that he remain in the opposition as long as he agreed to abandon Anwar. When they failed to also do this, he was packed off to Kamunting to start serving his two-year detention.

Ezam said rumours are rife that he is in the midst of making a deal with Umno. “Why should I do this now?” asked Ezam.

“If I want to this, why do this now? I should have done it at the early stages of my detention. Why should I suffer the two year detention and the OSA conviction where I have already served 10 months of my 16-month jail term?”

Ezam said he took a great risk by applying for bail.

“I have already served 10 months of my conviction,” explained Ezam.

“No doubt I was sentenced to two years jail. However, after a one-third remission, I only need to serve 16 months of this sentence.”

“My lawyers were surprised when I told them I would like to apply for bail. They cautioned me that if I fail in my appeal, the ten months I have already served would not be taken into consideration and I would have to start serving the 16 months jail sentence all over again.”

“I would therefore lose these 10 months. But, as a politician, this is the risk I have to take,” Ezam said to the crowd that broke out into thunderous applause.

Ezam then revealed that his release and that of the other five was due to a power struggle within Umno.

“It is because of the serious power struggle within Umno that I and my five comrades were released.”

“One group in Umno was opposed to our release. However, there was another group that wanted us released.”

It is said that Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the one behind their release while the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi camp tried to block their release.

These next four months are very critical to Umno as Dr Mahathir would be leaving office in October with Abdullah supposed to take over. The last thing Abdullah wants is the Reformasi Six back in circulation where they could do much damage to Umno that is yet to settle the succession issue.

Talk amongst the Umno circles is that Dr Mahathir wants the Reformasi Six to “stir the pot” to put pressure on the party. It is hoped that this may then be too much for Abdullah to handle and there would be serious doubts raised as to whether he would be able to take over from Dr Mahathir.

For all intents and purposes, say the sources within Umno, the Reformasi Six were released so that they could become the bogeymen. Umno would then question whether Abdullah is strong enough to fend off the opposition onslaught or should Dr Mahathir stay on to save Umno.

Whatever theories one may subscribe to, the immediate and unconditional release of the Reformasi Six took everyone by surprise, the Reformasi Six included. No doubt, there was much pressure from the International community, foreign governments and Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission to release them. In fact, even the Kamunting Review Board and the Federal Court ruled that their detentions are illegal, mala fide and violated the constitution. However, it cannot be discounted that Umno’s internal affairs also had a bearing on their release.

“We were not only surprised that we were released, but more surprised that our release was unconditional,” said Ezam. “This is the first time in the history of the ISA that detainees have been released without conditions attached.”

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