NO HOLDS BARRED, Malaysia Today
Raja Petra Kamarudin
When the police came to my home last
Friday to confiscate my computers, I was not at all shocked or
perturbed. I had half-expected that to happen considering the response
to my 25 April 2008 article in this same column, Let’s
send the Altantuya murderers to hell (read
the article here). And the response I am talking about is
the public statement by the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister plus the
letter from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Press Secretary (read
the letter here).
As the police left my house, they issued me a Section 111 order to
report to the Cyber Crime Division of Bukit Aman at 11.00am the
following morning for my statement to be recorded. However, at 3.15pm
that same day, they phoned me and asked whether I could go there at
4.00pm instead, that means in 45 minutes time, rather than the
following day at 11.00am as originally ordered.
I phoned Sam, my lawyer, and he told me I need not comply to this
‘request’ as the Section 111 order had stipulated 11.00am, Saturday, 3
May 2008 and not 4.00pm, Friday, 2 May 2008. Since the order said
11.00am Saturday, then that is the date and time I should report to
Bukit Aman and I can legally refuse to their request to come in a day
Nevertheless, I decided to consent to this request although I had
legal grounds to refuse to do so. The police then told me that a
police report had been made against me on the article mentioned above
so they have to take my statement. I asked to see a copy of the police
report plus the statement from the person who had lodged the report
but they admitted they did not have it nor has the police officer who
was to take my statement seen it yet. For all intents and purposes it
did not exist. (Read the full story here:
Towering Malays and the ‘hush’ on Peace Hill)
On Monday, at about 9.15pm, I received a phone call from the same
police officer who raided my house three days earlier and he wanted to
know if I could go to the Jalan Duta magistrates court at 9.30am the
following morning, Tuesday, 6 May 2008. He asked me to look for DSP
Mahfuz and said that they will be charging me. I asked what they were
charging me for and he replied that he does not know. I then said if
he knows that I am supposed to report to the Jalan Duta magistrates
court and what time and day I am supposed to report there, surely he
must know what I am going to be charged for. He replied maybe it is
for sedition but he is not sure.
I called the police officer back five minutes later and he confirmed
that it will be for sedition after all. But there are so many courts
in Jalan Duta. Which court am I supposed to go to? He did not know. He
said just hang around the lobby and they will come find me and escort
me to the correct court.
I arrived in Jalan Duta at 8.45am, 45 minutes ahead of schedule. By
10.15am I was still hanging around and no DSP Mahfuz came to see me.
One of my lawyers then went upstairs to try to find out which court my
case was going to be held in and he came back to inform me that there
is no case registered yet in the Jalan Duta magistrates court.
At 10.30am, I received a phone call from DSP Mahfuz asking me to go to
the PJ sessions court. We all rushed to PJ and arrived there at
11.00am as instructed only to find out that there is no case
registered there as well. In fact, the magistrate was on medical
leave. Furthermore, no charges against me had been prepared yet.
I was asked to sit down and wait while they phone the magistrate to
come back to work. They also needed to prepare the charge and register
my case. It appears like they had decided to charge me first and then
prepared the charge and decided which court to charge me in as an
Under the Sedition Act they need to arrest me or at the very least
issue me a summons. A summons under the Sedition Act is bailable but
not compoundable like in a traffic summons. The maximum fine is
RM5,000 or a jail term of three years or both. In my case, they had
not served any summons, nor had they served a warrant of arrest, and
my case was not even registered nor the charges prepared. For all
intents and purposes, I was in court on my own free will and I need
not have gone there if I did not want to.
After a lot of last minute preparing the charge, registering my case,
and the magistrate on sick leave finally coming back to work, etc.,
they charged me, to which I pleaded not guilty. They then set the
maximum bail of RM5,000.
This RM5,000 bail was absolutely unnecessary. I need not even have
gone to court. There was no legal obligation on my part to do so. They
just phoned me to ask whether I could go to court and I agreed to do
so. I did so willingly, demonstrating full cooperation, and without
forcing them to follow proper procedures. After all, how do I know who
was on the other line? How do I know that this was a legitimate and
not a crank call? They produced no evidence that I was to be charged
and they did ask whether I could come to court -- and a question like
that is open to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. They did not say I must go to
court. They asked whether I could go to court.
So, when they imposed the maximum RM5,000 bail I refused to pay it and
instead chose to be remanded until the day of the hearing in October
2008. When they asked me why, I replied that they could have posed
bail on personal bond seeing how I was very cooperative and did not
offer any resistance. I did not even insist they follow proper
procedures but was quite willing to respond to mere phone calls.
When I arrived in Sungai Buloh Prison, something happened that put the
entire prison on full alert. Sirul and Azilah, who were in the same
block as me, Blok Damai, shouted for me to watch my back and that they
will get me. I was quickly whisked out of the block. It seems they
were angry that the Altantuya murder trial, which had disappeared from
the radar screens, has now, again, been given the spotlight. Why
should that upset them? Why the need for the Altantuya murder trial to
disappear from the radar screens?
I was then assigned to my own cell, cell 8, and was not allowed to
come into contact with any of the other prisoners. My cell door was
permanently locked and whenever I had to leave my cell they would
assign two or three Special Forces personnel, UPK, as my bodyguards.
As further precautions, I refused to touch any drink or food as I
remembered very well the arsenic poisoning that Dato Seri Anwar
Ibrahim suffered when he too was in the same prison.
So, from the time I entered prison until the time I walked out four
days later, I did not eat or drink, which of course the prison
interpreted as a hunger strike. They told me that a hunger strike is a
serious crime and they could charge me for that. But that was the
least of my worries at that point of time.
I met no less than five or six senior officers at different points of
time who all insisted that I agree to meet my wife and lawyers so that
they could arrange bail for me. I made it very clear that I refuse to
see anyone because I do not want them to start crying and begging me
to agree to bail as that would weaken me. If I shut myself out from
the rest of the world that would make it easier to stand firm.
The head of the Special Forces and someone from the Intelligence Unit
also met me to explain that they will try their best to keep me safe.
Nevertheless, they can’t watch over me 100% of the time so my
continued presence in prison is a great burden to the entire staff. We
are on full alert and we have to report to the ministry every hour on
the hour. No one can sleep because of you, they said, so please agree
to bail and leave.
One of the Special Forces chaps told me to never trust anyone. Don’t
even trust the men in uniform, not even if they wear this same
uniform, he tugged on his shirt to emphasis the point. Your life here
is worth a packet of tobacco. Prisoners will kill just for that. And
Sirul (or was it Azilah?) is very intelligent, he added. He knows
which prisoners can be bought and he has many on his payroll. He can
always get someone to do his job for him.
Whenever I was brought out they made sure that Sirul and Azilah, and
the other 18 or so police officers that are in their same block, were
locked up. Once, when they brought me out, and someone in the walktie-talkie
said that the two were in the hospital, they quickly locked me up and
only brought me out again after the two were safely locked up. I could
see that they were not merely trying to frighten me but were genuinely
Look, they told me, we have only 600 men against more than 5,000
inmates. And not all 600 are on shift at the same time. This prison
was built for only 2,500 inmates so we are grossly overcapacity. If
anything does happen, our personnel are grossly outnumbered. And with
you here the potential for something happening is very great. Please,
they appealed, consider your stand of not agreeing to bail. If not for
your sake at least for ours. Whether you wish to live or die is your
decision. But whatever happens to you will affect all our careers as
Anyway, to cut a long story even longer, I finally agreed to meet my
wife and agreed to my wife’s appeal that she be allowed to pay the
bail. After all, a knife in my stomach would not exactly be what the
doctor would recommend.
I made many friends in my very short stay in the Sungai Buloh Prison:
the Indian chap who was on trial for kidnapping who kept peeping into
my cell to ask whether I needed everything, the Indonesian
transvestite across from my cell who kept calling me ‘sayang’ and
offered to massage my aching back, the Chinese man on trial for money
laundering who asked for my autograph, the air force pilot who
searched all over prison for reading glasses so that I could read my
books, and all the guards and Special Forces chaps who smiled and gave
me the thumbs-up when I greeted them with ‘Makkal Sakhti’. And they
all wanted just one thing. They wanted me home so that I can continue
to write and so that they can continue to find out the truth as to
what is happening in this country.
Yes, I was touched. I was touched that alleged kidnappers and
murderers and those we would normally consider the scum of the earth,
and all those who are guarding them in prison, know about Makkal
Sakhti and want the message of Makkal Sakhti to continue through
Malaysia Today. To those who are on the outside looking in, these
people are the forgotten people. These people no longer exist. You do
not have names in prison. You are just a number and a statistic. But
when you are amongst them, you can see that they have chosen a life
different from yours -- theirs is a life of crime -- but their
aspirations and ideals are the same as we on the outside looking in.
They too want justice, equality, democracy, freedom of speech and a
better Malaysia for all.
Yes, they might be criminals. And they may be criminals out of choice.
But life never really gave them too many choices. Some turn to crime
out of greed. But many turn to crime out of sheer need and
desperation. And these are the faces I saw in prison, faces of people
whom life offered not many choices. But then one of these faces may be
the last face I see. One of these faces may be that of the one sent to
do the evil deed of those who feel I have brought the spotlight back
onto a murder trial that was almost buried and forgotten if not for
the article I had written.
My wife knows I can be very stubborn and I seldom back down once I
have made my resolution. She also knows that I can marah nyamuk and
bakar kelambu, which can be considered irrational to most. But the
support from all and sundry kept her strong and allowed her the will
to fight. She is very touched with the support shown and the
solidarity demonstrated by friends, bloggers and readers of Malaysia
Today. In such a situation words can never really explain how one
feels. To all Malaysians, on behalf of my wife and my entire family, I
would like to express our most sincere gratitude. And this comes from
the bottom of our hearts.
And to all Malaysians, I also want to say that I am sorry for allowing
myself to be persuaded in agreeing to accept bail. I feel like I have
let you down after earlier rejecting bail and instead choosing to stay
in jail until my hearing in October. Under the circumstances, why
should I allow my adversaries to finish me off like a cornered rat? At
least if one has to go down let it be one goes down fighting.
On the money collected thus far, if all you donors can agree to it, I
am going to propose that the surplus be put into a BLOGGERS DEFENCE
FUND so that any blogger who may in future suffer persecution from the
powers-that-be will have financial support to stand and fight. The
bail is of course refundable and can be put back into the fund for
future use. And the fund can also be used for legal costs whenever we
can’t find lawyers who will defend bloggers on a pro bono basis.
That is all for today. I am still slightly disoriented and my aching
back is not allowing me to focus that well -- so sorry if my piece
today is slightly below par.