BUTTERWORTH (BERNAMA) - Former Malaysian police chief Abdul Rahim Noor, who gave politician Anwar Ibrahim the infamous black eye by assaulting him in 1998, has been appointed a special government envoy, causing dismay to members of Datuk Seri Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
Tan Sri Rahim, 75, was last week appointed by the Mahathir Mohamad administration as facilitator for peace talks between southern Thailand's Muslim rebels and the Thai government.
But Mr Anwar, commenting on the issue for the first time on Sunday (Sept 2), said Prime Minister Mahathir should be given leeway in determining the best decision on the appointment of the former inspector-general of police (IGP).
Mr Anwar, PKR's president-elect, did not deny that the appointment has caused unhappiness among various groups, especially those who could not forget what Mr Rahim did when he was the IGP in 1998.
Mr Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister on September 2 that year, a decision that led to the Reformasi street protests.
Mr Anwar was arrested by police on Sept 20, 1998, and Mr Rahim assaulted him while he was in a prison cell that evening.
Mr Rahim was found guilty of the assault in 2000 and received a two-month jail sentence. He apologised in 2005 to Mr Anwar and his family for what happened.
PKR was formed in 1999, using as its flag a symbol of Mr Anwar's black eye.
Mr Anwar told reporters after an event on Sunday: "I know some consider this as a personal issue but we need to remember because we are now talking about a former IGP and criminal behaviour (involving him).
"We also need to know that space should be given to Tun Mahathir as Prime Minister to determine what is best.
"In this regard, it is not just about Anwar's case. On the other hand, lessons can be learnt by others."
Mr Anwar's daughter, Penang MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, has strongly opposed Mr Rahim's appointment.
"I unequivocally oppose this appointment of a brutal assaulter of an innocent man, as he lay there blindfolded and handcuffed - left without medical attention for days," Ms Nurul Izzah wrote on Twitter last week,
A PKR Selangor MP, Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid, told Malay Mail online news: "I do not see Rahim Noor's contribution to this post, and why appoint this person, given what he has done to Anwar, and the fact that Anwar is going to be the next prime minister?"
Former IGP Rahim replaced the former facilitator in the Thai talks, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zamzamin Hashim.
Mr Rahim who served as Malaysia's police chief from 1994 to 1999. News reports say he was pivotal in the laying down of arms by the Communist Party of Malaya and signing of the Hatyai Peace Agreement in 1989, in southern Thailand, with the Malaysian government. He was then director of the police's Special Branch.