Commentary Politics

Rotten fish & dark tea? No, Anwar had special menu & Milo

Anwar's cell when he was first sent to Sungai Buloh prison in 1999. -- Photo as posted at the Malaysian Review

Written by Aziz Hassan

October 25, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections

HE was a prisoner no doubt and twice in the last 20 years but because of who he was and especially due to the support he had from his foreign friends and the foreign press, the government was always mindful of the need to tread carefully over how this prisoner was treated.

It was for these reasons that every step was taken to ensure that Anwar Ibrahim was well looked after when he was incarcerated at the Sungai Buloh prison, first from 1999 to 2004 and then from 2015 to 2018. It must be stated though that the king granted him a full pardon not long after last year’s general elections.

His was a single occupancy cell but while some will say this meant solitary confinement, it was much better than the shared cells for other inmates. And although he was in a single occupancy cell, Anwar was allowed to meet other prisoners during breaks and even played sepak takraw with them. Because of the problem with his neck and back from an old injury, he was given a bed and a mattress.

Anwar could not take tea or coffee so the doctor asked that he be provided with Milo, which the prison allowed him to keep in his cell, with hot water given at night for him to make his drink

Anwar was also to claim at a conference recently that he was given black tea without milk or sugar. (He must have meant dark tea.) If you knew that he could not take tea or coffee you would probably then ask why should the prison serve him either. Contrary to his claims, he was in fact provided with a tin of Milo in his cell as recommended by Dr. S. Jeyaindran, a physician from the KL Hospital, who examined him nine times between June and August 1999. It must be noted that apart from the many times he was taken to clinics or hospitals outside Sungai Buloh, Anwar was admitted to HUKM in Cheras for 12 days in September the same year, where was allowed unlimited visits not only by his immediate family but also relatives, in-laws, lawyers and some friends. No word too from there about rotten fish and dark, tasteless tea or coffee.

Another “privilege” given him, also as recommended by the physician, was honey to help him put on weight since Anwar claimed to have lost several kilograms since being incarcerated. The modifications to his menu were made after Anwar had told the physician that he was averse to certain types of fish.

Some may remember Anwar’s allegation that he was a victim of arsenic poisoning while in prison, a claim which an independent foreign lab confirmed to be non-existent based on its test of his urine sample. According to Jeyaindran, he instead found Anwar to have symptoms opposite to those of someone suffering from arsenic poisoning. He had other ailments like mild asthma and an ulcer first detected a few years before he went to prison. At one time a backache was caused by stunt in a sepak takraw game with inmates.

Never once was he known to complain to the many doctors that attended to him about being served rotten fish or that he suffered from food poisoning

If indeed he was fed “rotten fish all the time and beef only twice”, surely Anwar would have suffered frequent food poisoning, with diarrhoea thrown in, but this was never known to be the case and neither was this spoken out as an issue by him 20 years ago, something that would have added more points in his attempt to demonise the government.

At the same recent conference, Anwar was also said to have recycled another issue and this was about alleging that what put him in jail was all due to trumped up charges. Local press reports didn’t mention this but a news outlet from Singapore that referred to The Star Online mentioned this. Read here: If Anwar raised this point again it would simply mean blaming the first Mahathir administration all over again. Now how would the 94-year-old view this, especially in relation to the much talked about power transition plan? Also, Malaysians have been given the impression that when both men decided to work together to try and boot out the Barisan Nasional government in last year’s elections, the past was put in the past, both had reconciled, apologies were exchanged and that it was time to move on. Now this.

Enclosed below is the menu specially given to Anwar during his first time in Sungai Buloh. Nothing extraordinary but much better that what the other inmates were served with.



About the author


Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.