|Laman Webantu KM2A1: 4700 File Size: 16.0 Kb *|
Memories of ISA by former detainees
11/6/2001 8:13 pm Mon
Abdul Aziz Ishak
Special Guest: The Detention in Malaysia of an Ex-Cabinet Minister
Singapore, Oxford University Press, 1977
Secret Holding Centre
More than once my Case Officers asked me, apropos of nothing in particular,
if I knew the location of the centre where I was being held. I said I did
not. In fact the location of this place, known as the Holding Centre, was a
jealously-guarded secret.? The security of the place itself, especially of
the inmates, should not be known to anyone, even to those working in the
Police Force - in fact, to no one, that is, other than the Special Branch
officers assigned directly to such duties. (p. 75)
They said, 'Datuk Raja Abu Hanifah and Ishak Haji Mohamed have confessed.
So why should you not do so?' I was not deterred nor deluded by this line
of approach. Had they not begun to realize even yet that the answers I had
given to their questions were honest? Did they really expect me to break
down and tell some other story that would fit in with the confessions? As
far as I was concerned, how did I know whether this statement about the
confessions was fiction or fact? If it was fiction, they must think me a
fool indeed. If it was fact, then what did it matter? My story was mine;
their stories were theirs. At this point we reached a stalemate. (pp. 105-6)
Is Special Branch God?
'None of you', said I, 'should appoint yourself a judge of what we are
alleged to have committed. Only God has the full facts of the case, not
even the Special Branch; and the Special Branch is not free from making
mistakes.' (p. 76)
Is the Special Branch Neutral?
After his arrest until his Order of Detention is made out, a detainee is
completely under the authority of the Special Branch, and strictly so, with
?no political interference by anyone??. But this rigid procedure can be
tampered with even before the Special Branch has enough evidence to
recommend that a person should be picked up. In fact, it can occur from
above. Those at the top can ask the Special Branch to devise a plan to
detain so-and-so. This can happen even in a Government that claims to
practise democracy? (pp. 111-112)
Two Faces: Detention Without Trial
Kuala Lumpur, Insan, 1996
Thousands of people have fallen victims to the ISA since it was introduced
in 1960. My experience under this act is little, compared to what has been
experienced by many others. There were those who were detained for more
than fifteen years; and there were also those who were forced to take their
lives because they could not bear the sufferings any more. ? Experience has
shown that it is so easy for people to be branded, accused, detained and
tortured, until they are forced to confess to what they never even did.
Bad Cop, Worse Cop
'You know. I can force you to crawl and lick the floor,' he shouted. I
continued to remain silent. Go to hell with him! If they refused to believe
me and wanted to torture me, let them. God would repay them for all they did.
'You must talk. Otherwise, I will beat you up,' saying that, he walked out.
His friend was still there, sitting. He asked me to sit. He spoke to me in
a soft and civilised way. He asked me to give my cooperation. He began to
relate a few incidents when we were in school together in Batu Pahat. So,
he was playing the 'good guy' role, compared to the 'bad guy' just now.
Do Unto Others...
I did a lot of free exercise in the room, any time I felt like doing so.
One day, I saw a picture of the Minister of Home Affairs in the newspaper
that they used to wrap my food. I took the paper and for three or four days
I exercised by jumping repeatedly on it, until the picture was tattered. I
only wanted to release my tension. (p. 114)
The One Who Got Away
'Syed. We know that you have connections with the underground. We know that
you were the intermediary between underground elements with Dr Mahathir and
Musa Hitam. You must tell us about this.'
'This is a lie,' I said emphatically. I could not understand why they
wanted to implicate these leading figures of UMNO with the underground.
'If you admit this, then you can immediately leave this place', he uttered
these words with no sign of any emotion.
Oh God. What was happening? Did they think I was that stupid? If I
confirmed this false matter, certainly they would prolong my detention,
this time for admitting having links with the underground. If there were
innocent people detained because of my false admision, then I would never
be able to live with myself any more.
I decided not to entertain this man. He too did not pursue his questions.
Maybe he was just trying to fly a kite. But I was convinced he was not
acting alone. He must have been directed by his superiors. I was certain
nobody here moved on his own.
A few years later, after I was freed, I was told that even Samad (Idris)
was asked to implicate several UMNO leaders, including Dr Mahathir, in the
same manner. As it so happened, Samad was quite close to Mahathir at one
time, especially when they were active in the Afro-Asia Solidarity
To cut the story short, Hussein Onn decided on Dr Mahathir as his Deputy.
The Home Minister saw Mahathir as the biggest obstruction to realising his
ambition. Mahathir could easily be detained under the ISA, if two persons
could corroborate that he had links with the communist underground. That
explained why they asked Samad and me about Mahathir. (pp. 109-110)
The One Who Didn't
Then Anwar was called. On the first day itelf I heard voices raised and
some banging of the table. When I had the chance to ask, Anwar told me he
was questioned by four interrogators. At first they didn't ask him
anything.They just scolded him. They accused him of always creating
trouble, opposing the government and splitting the Malays.
'They accused me of receving millions of dollars from Libya. They have been
spreading lies and they they want me to admit them as truths. What is
this?? Anwar's face was red with anger.
The intimidating tactics used by the interrogators soon changed to friendly
conversations. According to Anwar, two of his interrogators tried to
discuss with him matters relating to religion and nation.
One Friday, one of them, dressed in sarong, Malay dress and a turban
visited Anwar in his lock-up. He was there for a long time, asking about
all kinds of things.
Anwar was interrogated for two weeks. He was often called quite early in
the morning, usually to the nearest room. Sometimes they asked him to write
various statements in his lock-up on the issues raised during
interrogation. Anwar felt irritated because he was questioned repeatedly on
the same subjects.
'They want me to condemn the communists. What has this to do with the
communists? The communists did not arrest me. It is not the communists who
are causing inflation and poverty now.? Anwar was grumbling angrily.
Then he continued with a sigh, 'They said we can be released early if we
condemn the communists. They continue to accuse me of receiving money from
Gadafi. They also accuse me of organising all the demonstrations.' (pp.
Universiti Kedua: Kisah Tahanan Di Bawah ISA
Petaling Jaya, Media Intellek, 1983
I wanted to cry but my tears wouldn't flow. The face of my youngest son,
Ahmad Shauqi, nine years of age then and in Standard 3, floated before my
eyes. He was the child to whom I was closest. I thought, he surely wouldn't
understand why his father was arrested. My two other sons were in Form 3.
The second had gone 'express' two or three years earlier; hence both were
placed in the same class. My heart was filled with worries over their
education. But in my present condition I couldn't do anything at all. No
one could fault me or my sons if their education declined. (p. 26,
"Turning Over' the Family
As I have said, the 'turning over' techniques go beyond moral
considerations: whether they are lawful is a question that never arises.
Hence even your family can sometimes be a space that will be trespassed.
You are brought to meet with your wife or family at a certain hour but your
wife or family are told to come at another time, an hour later, or they may
not have been told to come at all. When you come and you wait and your
family do not show up, you feel dejected, maybe even angry. Then they will
say to you that your family or your wife are not concerned with you
anymore, and they will instigate you to divorce your wife. Or your wife may
be visited by a police officer for the purpose of winning her over and
persuading her to divorce you. (p. 35, translated)
That night I was interrogated till the next morning by a new team of
interrogators whom I'd met the evening before. They took turns, two or
three of them every two hours. I was made to sit on a round stool with no
back. Compared to the first team, this team was extremely rough. They
spewed obsenities, screamed at me, cursed, scolded, insulted and humiliated
me all through the night. (p. 49, translated)
The Price of Loyalty
Singapore, Summer Times Publishing, 1983
Breakfast consisted of one small green banana (pisang embun), one slice of
plain bread and a glass of watery black coffee. Lunch came in the form of a
newspaper-wrapped packet containing, in a plastic sheet, some white rice, a
spoonful or two of curry gravy and, on top of the rice, two small fried
'ikan curot', a fish about the size of my index finger. That was all.
Dinner was virtually the same, except that in place of ikan curot sometimes
there would be a thumb-sized piece of salt fish with some vegetable scraps
such as traces of pumpkin. (p. 41)
See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Do What You're Told
'Dato, as you know we are only police officers doing our job. We'll report
everything you said but frankly we still have no idea why you were
arrested. We simply cannot see any reason for your arrest but it is not for
us to say whether or not you will be served with a detention order. That is
up to our superiors and the Minister concerned.' (p. 47)
Guilty From The Start
I have already referred several times to the falsity of the accusations
against me. During my time in detention I made frequent representations,
directly and through my lawyers, to the government protesting that I had
been wrongfully accused; but to no avail?. A horrifying aspect of detention
without trial in the Malaysian manner is that the detainee is considered
guilty from the start. The old and honourable maxim that a person accused
of a crime is innocent until proven guilty means nothing. From the moment I
was arrested some officials seemed delighted to regard me as guilty. (p. 76)
Opposition Worse Than Criminals
Why should I, a former parliamentarian and official Leader of the
Opposition in Parliament, and one of the founders of Malaysia, be treated
worse than a common criminal, kept in solitary confinement, without
exercise, on a starvation diet, sleeping on a cold, concrete bed, with one
thin blanket, no pillow, no sleeping mat, let alone mattress, no mosquito
net for what turned out to be sixty-six days and nights? (p. 52)
445 Days Behind The Wire: An Account Of The Oct 1987 ISA Detentions
Kuala Lumpur, Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Resource and Research Centre,
Hell of a Cell
The first thing that struck me on entering the cell was the suffocating
confinement of the walls. The biggest window to the beyond was a hatch on
the dark green heavy door. This hatch was scarcely large enough for a fist
and a mug. It faced the cell opposite. There was not much to see as all the
hatches were kept tightly shut at all times...
A concrete platform protruded from the wall opposite the door. With a thin
slab of plywood atop, this was the bed which was big enough for a six
footer. Contiguous with this, on the same side of the wall was my "attached
bathroom", all three-and-a-half by three of it. It was wholly dominated by
a squat-toilet and a tap...
In this claustrophobic space I was to spend sixty one days of solitary
confinement. (p. 21)
Going on the Air
Early on during the second week or so, I was asked if I would like to do an
interview on TV. I said, 'Why not, if I can say whatever I want to say?' I
was given a piece of paper and I wrote, among other things, that I was more
convinced than ever the ISA is a most iniquitous law if it can be used
against innocent people like me; that I was relieved that the UMNO rally
had been cancelled. My IOs took one look at it and said they would show it
to their superiors. I did not hear anymore about television interviews
after that. (p. 39)
Why Don't We All Join Barisan Nasional
'Why don't you join the Barisan Nasional (the ruling coalition)?' was a
constant refrain and offer that was put to me during the interrogations?.
'Don't you know you have been used? We've got statements from one of your
leaders (also under detention at the time) to show that he has used you all
This sort of bluff was a tactic they used quite often. I replied by saying
how thin the government's propaganda was whenever they said that people had
been used: 'When rubber tappers or others in the poorer classes are
unhappy, you accuse them of being used by others; now even an academician
with a PhD has been used like a puppet!' (p. 41)
The First 60 Days: The 27 October ISA Arrests
Petaling Jaya, Democratic Action Party, 1989
Special Branch officers are trained as professionals to strike at detainees
with lightning, to demoralise them and to extract as much information as
possible in the shortest time, so that more arrests, particularly of
underground activists, can be made. With determined, non-violent and
non-subversive detainees, their previous methods are out of date.
Nevertheless, detainees are at their mercy. They use whatever method to
break those detainees provided they can get away with it. As a result, some
detainees sustain permanent damage in one way or another. (p. 64)
Don't Believe the News
Whenever newspapers, journals or television carry unfavourable or distorted
news or lies against them, detainees may feel outraged. It is like adding
insult to injury. The callousness of the Home Minister and his deputy is
evident; they take especial pleasure in doing it. From time to time,
detainees would send letters, telegrams or ask their legal advisers to seek
redress. (p. 110)
And We Are All Human Beings
Under sustained duress, detainees can behave in unusual manners. The
pressure of a caged person in addition to temporary or permanent damage
sustained during the first 60 days can affect detainees' behaviour.
Therefore, we have to give allowances to fellow detainees. Tempers would
flare and suspicion of certain members would arise. Friction would occur
with or without conflicts of ideology and personality. (p.116)