Tuesday September 16, 2008
My 18 hours under the ISA
By TAN HOON CHENG
WHILE enjoying my yew char koay (fried dough stick), I was worried about the show-cause letter issued to Sin Chew Daily, and anxious about the days ahead for my newspaper.
Suddenly, a group of plainclothes policemen appeared in front of my gate. A woman police officer started to identify who they were and the purpose of their visit. She was also the only one in uniform.
She told me I had to follow them to the police station. I said would not open the gate unless they had a warrant of arrest.
I immediately rang the legal adviser of our company and my direct superior to seek their advice. Later, the woman officer told me they were arresting me under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and therefore a warrant was not required. Upon hearing that, I immediately prepared for the worst.
I had to act calm, comforting my parents and reassuring them that my colleagues would be waiting for me at the police station to render assistance. When I was taken away, my parents reacted strongly and they kept on asking the police to accord me proper treatment.
I was brought to the Seberang Prai Tengah district police station. I was placed in a cold room while waiting for the police to begin their paperwork.
I was accompanied by a woman officer who seemed to be shivering because of the low room temperature. To break the silence, I initiated a conversation. She told me: “You seem to be very calm.”
I told her: “I am arrested under the Internal Security Act and even though I am scared, I have to face this reality. But I am worried about my parents, friends and relatives, they must be very worried about me.”
To be frank, I was very cool-headed. I believed there must be a lot of people out there supporting me and giving me the strength I needed. So, I had to stay strong for them.
The police recorded all my personal belongings which were later taken away from me. After that, I was considered ready to be sent to the police contingent headquarters in Penang.
When I was brought out of the police station, I realised a lot of my media colleagues, representatives from different parties and groups were already waiting outside the police station to show their support.
Seeing this, I was deeply touched, I could no longer hold back my tears.
When the police car arrived at the entrance, my superior, Puah Eu Peng, our Northern Region Manager, tried to stop the car with his body and to slow it down.
He knocked at the window, to make sure I was in the car and gestured to show his support. I instantly wiped off my tears.
After taking my thumbprints, I was given dinner and arranged to spend my night in remand. I did not know that people had gathered outside the station to show their support.
I requested the woman officer to keep the lights on. She told me not to worry, she would not switch off the lights.
The police also informed me I would meet my parents at 8am tomorrow morning. I spent a very long time, thinking of everything that I had to tell my parents.
I lost touch with the outside world and since it was my only opportunity, I had cherish it. To clearly explain everything to my parents.
After clearing my mind, I tried to sleep on a wooden bed with the company of mosquitoes and the noise of water dripping. I had no idea what tomorrow held for me, but I knew I had to be in perfect condition to handle everything.
I have never suffered from insomnia but this very night, I finally experienced it.
Deep down in my heart, I know those who cared about me would also be experiencing the same and my heart ached thinking about that.
When I was about to wash up at 6am, the woman officer passed me clothes brought by my parents. I was surprised; everything was new, the toiletries, T-shirts, shorts, panties.
I later discovered that the “parents” the police officer was referring to were a bunch of colleagues. While waiting outside the Penang police contingent headquarters, they had prepared them for me.
They were uncertain when I would be released, but told themselves they had to get these items ready in the shortest time possible.
I met my parents and said goodbye.
The police informed me they would bring me to the Bukit Aman police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. My heart sank. I told myself this was the beginning of it, I must brace myself for everything.
I was eventually brought to the Perak police headquarters in Ipoh. After a brief interrogation session, I was brought back to Penang police headquarters again.
I was interrogated further. I told myself to keep my mind clear, I must tell them the truth, and respond appropriately.
After the interrogation, I was brought to see another higher-ranked officer, he told me: “We can both go home now!” Both of us turned to the clock on the wall. The time was 2.25pm.
These were my 18 hours under the ISA. I have gone through a lot
After being released, I received a lot of messages, telephone calls and bouquets.
My colleagues in the press, representatives from political parties, society leaders, schoolmates, classmates, friends and relatives visited me at home. Of course, not forgetting the readers and members of the public who called up or visited Sin Chew Daily’s office in Penang or the head office in Petaling Jaya.
To all of them, I express my deepest gratitude. During those 18 hours, which was filled with a lot of uncertainties, I felt there was some unknown strength that supported me through it all.
I knew it must be from you all, those whom I knew or have not met!
I realise our journey is still full with challenges and obstacles, so we have to continue with the same righteous spirit and courage that we have all shown this time! Our society needs this spirit. To build a better tomorrow.
I have finally been freed, but I hope Teresa Kok and Raja Petra Kamarudin and all those detainees under the ISA can be released as soon as possible.
If the authorities think they have broken the law, they should be brought to a court of law to stand transparent and fair trials.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from www.mysinchew.com.