I was idling away happily enough just now – reading those excellent posts at SAKMONGKOL AK47 (hoping I’ll be able to write like him one day) and thinking about whom to pour scorn on at “the other site”. Then came Elviza’s comment at the previous post. I have to “layan” her – she’s `a fellow Kelantan Blogger‘ and a lawyer … might help get me out of trouble later on, who knows?:-)
There’s so much to write about and I don’t really know where to start. But I’ll try the chronological approach and just write what comes to mind. Heck, nobody should complain, for this isn’t “paid writing” targeted for a newspaper:-)
If you have not ever had your freedom taken away from, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like (Arep couldn’t imagine it). But then, you can let your imagination try…
Trying imagining this: having already spent three months at a harsh and abusive prison that is Pengkalan Chepa “for something non-violent” (although I do acknowledge I had hurt not only myself but also those closest mentally) – a period that also includes Hari Merdeka on 31 August 2005, and most of the fasting month (with Raya three days away) – the magistrate prolongs your ordeal with a two-year court order to undergo “Treatment & Rehabilitation” at a Pusat.
I felt that I had done “everything possible” during the fasting month to “try and please God”. But yet…
At the Pengkalan Chepa prison, on the eve of the fasting month, I had made a decision: I will no longer neglect the compulsory five-times-a-day prayers AND will also adhere to fasting for the whole month … “wanting to get on God’s good side”; the main wish being “to Will the magistrate into setting me free”.
Oh, I had prayed before being arrested – when I had felt like it. However, during the first two months in prison, I didn’t. It was a case of “merajuk”; of childish tantrum – a stupid, self-defeating `rebellion’ against God for the fate that I was in. I had felt that “I’m not that bad … I don’t deserve this kind of thing … God is wrong, doing this to me…” Astagfirullah.
I remember those fasting weeks in Bilik 8 (“Room” – about the size of a classroom, with 40-55 inside) at Block D: It was the start of a spiritual awakening … something like a seed that starts to grow and blossom over the coming days, weeks and months (I hope I’m not being “Riak” [showing off] with this. Unfortunately, right now I’m not at that level).
After each prayer (usually `berjemaah’ with around 20 others who prayed), I had felt `a certain power’ in the “doa”. That was especially so during the times that I would get up at 2-3am or 5am (“Sahur” in prison was at 3am) and performed a “Sembahyang Tahajud” , “Istigfar” (meditation?) and “Zikir” … remembering the wrongs that I had done to my family and loved ones; the disappointments and hurts that I had caused… And, among other things, I would ask for God to set me free on 31 Oct 2005.
But there was always this nagging worry: “What if God has decreed for me to be sent to Pusat, regardless of what I do or `doa’?” And it was real too – most of those who were not bailed out by their family were sent to Pusat (the magistrates would conveniently translate this – sometimes true – as “no one cares about him, so let him try pick up his bearings at Pusat first”). But there were many who were released to be supervised too, so “there was hope”. Anyway, I felt that I had done everything that was possible when it came to the mandatory religious commitments.
As for the secular side, I had prepared a representation/mitigation – what I was going to plead for at the court. I had written it, and those who read it at Bilik 8 said it was “very good”. In fact, I became sort of a “petition writer” after that – a few chaps would come over and ask me for ideas on what to say in court.
[Part 2 – Last day in Pengkalan Chepa]
On 30 Oct – a day before the decision at the magistrate’s court – I was sent to spend the night at the police lockup. Due to the time consumed in administrative affairs at the prison before one gets out of it (easy to get in though), and transportation & escorting matters; those with dates at courts other than Kota Bharu are taken out a day earlier by the “Court and Escort” departments of their respective district police.
It would be a long wait. I (with around 15 people from Block D were taken to the prison’s registration office (RO) at 7.30 before the daily muster. The Kota Bharu police would come soon enough with their handcuffs and assorted paperwork for the handover. For those in other districts, we’d have to wait in one of the three small cells (maybe 15 x 15 feet?) at the RO until after noon at least – sometimes until around 3 PM. (One was for female, and the other for the “jatuh hukum” convicts). That’s because the Black Maria aka “Lori Ayam” (Chicken-coop Lorry) from the respective districts work on a “deliver-and-collect” system – they’d send new remand prisoners to Pengkalan Chepa AND collect those from there on the return trip.
So it was to be a six-hour wait in a small room. We were ordered to face the wall behind because a few of the warders in the office were uncomfortable with people staring at them. And especially so with the female warders. Can’t really blame this, exasperating and heavy-handed though it was, for guess what most men in such a situation and condition would think of when looking at them? And some people just could not hide their leery looks and grins that reflect exactly what they were thinking of…
It was a very dull time whiling away the hours, for we were not allowed to talk (but we did anyway – until a warder would cut in when it started to hum and buzz, with a threat to whack everyone). One of the more memorable incidents was the police from Besut, Terengganu (Pengkalan Chepa being nearer than Marang) sending in a kid of about 13 years old charged with theft. Due to some complications, his family could not immediately post bail on that day. And there he was, in a Boy Scout uniform…
When the police finally came for their delivery and collection routine, there was a feeling of relief inside – of leaving that horrendous place. If I had dared to, while walking (handcuffed to another guy) to the truck, I would have loved to turn back and spit in its direction … a statement of how I feel about Penjara Pengkalan Chepa and towards many of its warders and senior officers… CAPTION: Penang Prison (top). Had been inside here too once (I’ll write about this another time … unless Elviza wants`to sponsor’ – “Ditaja oleh…”:-) By the way, I couldn’t find a decent pix of Pengkalan Chepa – one that shows how intimidating it is, with two cannons and big, heavy wooden gates at the front. This one here of it below makes it look so benign. This is just the normal entrance from the main road (Jalan Maktab, near the Education Ministry’s Pusat Sumber. Had stayed here before too. “Huh? How? Why?” Ah, I’m a bit mysterious, eh? But some of you here know a bit about me … Arep, The Gossip Lounge, Dr F, Sherry etc. Another time, folks)
[Part 3 – At the lockup]
At the Pasir Mas lockup that day (Monday), I was in Cell 1. Received news from two guys in Cell 3 that they had been ordered to Pusat: Cendana286 “Mat Tiger”, 31, to Gambang and “Lan Pok-embar” from Wakaf Bharu, Tumpat (Mat Tiger, a guy who did construction-related jobs and was with HIV, was later to become one of my most important friends whom I’m heavily in debt to. More about him later.
In court, once the magistrate decides what to do with you, the district AADK would recommend that “first timers” be sent to Gambang while “others” to elsewhere. Lan Pokembar, 21, from Wakaf Bharu, Tumpat – a quite `predatory’ and unpopular type – had already been to an underaged Pusat before. He was sent to Jerantut. They were told to be ready “very early” for they’ll be transported the following morning.
With me were three others: “Awang Tumpat”, 35(?), (a figure very well-known and a quite respected figure in prison); Rahim aka “Plug”, 55 – someone from Penang on a two-year banishment under Prevention of Crime laws; and a guy of around 27 whom I can’t remember.
Awang was arrested with Lan Pok-embar in Pasir Mas on the same day as I and Rahim were; although in different places. They went to Pasir Mas together on a bike to “find stock” – using a kampung road. However, they were stopped by detectives because the number plate behind was missing. A check turned up a syringe, so they were taken to the Narcotics branch for a urine test. Which turned up a “positive” result, of course (else they would have been released).
The interesting thing about Awang was; prior to this, he had previously already spent three months in remand for a similar case under the Drug Dependants Act – Treatment & Rehabilitation Act 1983 (is this correct, Elviza?). He had already been in Pusat once. “Luckily” for him, on 11 Aug 05, the magistrate in Tumpat had given him a two-year supervision order, and he was freed. But “unluckily” for him, he was arrested again on 13 Aug … just two days after that order!
And “Plug”… Now this “Otai” (old-timer) and Penang “Mamak” (NOT being condescending or anything here with this term) had been in prison 12 times for various crimes, and was on a two-year banishment under some Prevention of Crime law (had three months left). He’s a musician who could sing, so he was quite popular and “in demand” with many of the prisoners in remand.
He’s also a loud-mouth braggart and inveterate liar; with tall tales and such that attempted to elevate others’ opinion towards him – something that I dislike tremendously. He might have been `popular’ with some of the younger ones, but I felt unfortunate to be in the same room as him at Pengkalan Chepa. Now this was someone who’s always desperate to be the centre of attraction, sometimes to my embarrassment.
If it was not by singing and drumming with a pail and “gayung” (water scoop), it was through slapstick “lawak bodoh”. And I mean they were really “bodoh”. Just imagine this scene: He’d pull down his pants and walk around showing off “his crown jewels”; evoking laughs from some of the prisoners. Seems to live off this – that he was the centre of attraction and focus; scanning everyone’s face for the response.
But he’d always be disappointed (and offended) by me – I’d never laugh or smile with this type of unbecoming behaviour – something from a 55-year-old. Instead, I’d just “be normal” and maybe even shake my head (which he’d be quick to pretend not to have noticed – and bearing a grudge, no doubt). Sometimes, when it’s obvious that people do not believe some of his stories, he’d have regrets – and be quick to try find faults with others … just so to focus that “this other guy is a liar!”
He tried that once with me, with something that I had said; attempting to humiliate me in front of others. But I had always spoken the truth there – often understating things so as not to stand out as `anyone special’ (or I’d just keep quiet). And this is something that I’m proud of. His attempt with that one failed, and I must admit to feeling joyful inside when he attempted to extract his foot from his mouth and make light of it all:-)
“On the outside”, he was also a masseur – a skill much valued in prison and Pusat by officers and inmates alike. He was also helping out at a restaurant in Kampung Dangar, Pasir Mas (quite near to where I was detained) – at “Kedai Mek Na”. (Mohd Zawi of “Pasir Mas: The Land of the Golden Sand” must surely know of her) Now this Mek Na (in her early 40’s?) is perhaps one of the most attractive and sexiest woman I had ever seen .. should try ask Mohd Zawi for a picture of her to show here:-)
Anyway, Plug also had another project: He was also selling pil kuda (methamphetamine). That was why the police had raided his area that day (with me already detained and taken along in a Proton Satria). Three others were arrested with Plug, but they were later bailed out after four days. As an aside, we heard that they then “paid something” to have the case settled. Needless to say, all their urine test later came out as “Negative”. Hmm… (One of them was arrested again early last year – and got a two-year supervision order circa Aug 07). Well, to make a long story short (or “shorter”), I’ll go back to my own troubles…
I was the only guy still fasting (and praying) in that cell. The others had either not fasted at all, or broke it when they had access to some tobacco inside the lockup (MUCH easier here than in prison where you’d be lucky to get two puffs every other day if you’re “a nobody”). I was extremely tempted ( there might not be any more supply at dusk) but I held on; remembering not to anger God during such a critical time. But I was in luck – Awang Tumpat had reserved a bit of tobacco specially for me to break fast with – as respect “for those who fasted and prayed” , requesting that “I’d pray that each of us will be released tomorrow”. This I did – mentioning everyone’s names in my “doa” during all the prayers until Subuh (dawn) the following morning.
But something bad happened that night.
You see, there are video cameras that focus on each cell, and the policemen on duty would observe them from time to time to see what was going on. So, when you want to smoke, it was in the toilet at the end, with each taking turns (the wall prevents you from being caught if you squat). That night, at around 11 PM, a particularly mean and much-hated lance-corporal, “Mail Kerbau” (Ismail the Buffalo – due to his looks) saw someone in Cell 3 sitting down with his back turned “and looking downwards” (He was rolling a cigarette with newspaper. We in Cell 1 had run out of the stuff after dusk).
He opened the main door (the clanging always alerted the prisoners), walked down the corridor and told the occupants to surrender whatever tobacco and lighters they had. They surrendered a bit of it, plus an empty lighter (BTW it’s still useful – you can use the sparks to light up cotton thread taken from jeans). He wasn’t satisfied.
Mail Kerbau then opened the door and ordered everyone to strip one-by-one. A patch of tobacco (of about RM3 worth) was found on one of them – a guy who was in remand in Sungai Buluh under section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act (mandatory hanging), who also had another earlier case in Pasir Mas where he was bailed. The guy was given a very hard slap, with Mail Kerbau adding insult to injury with an arrogant (translated from dialect): “Do you think I’m scared of you, just because you’re a 39B? I gave you that slap just to remind you, for your cockiness” (I later learned from Mat Tiger that the guy had not done or said anything that was `cocky’)
Then – and for a long time whenever I think about it – there was hatred in my heart and feeling of vengeance towards Mail Kerbau, even if his actions were not directly towards me. I had wished for awful things to happen to him, I’m ashamed to say and may God forgive me – that he gets beaten up badly by someone, involved in an accident, arrested by the Anti-Corruption Agency or by the police themselves; lose his job, be hurt or/and humiliated – things like this. But it’s better to leave such things to God, for He knows best on what to bring about…
Anyway, at 6am the next morning, the police escort branch came to take Mat Tiger and Lan Pok-embar to their destinations (to Jerantut first, via Gua Musang). And the four of us (plus a few others brought for mention) were taken to court at 8am. I remember that it was rather cool that day … Monday, 31 October 2005 – The Day of Reckoning for the four of us.
[Part 4 – At the magistrate’s court]
Our fates (from a secular viewpoint) depended on three things since we had all elected to not contest but instead acknowledged the doctor’s certification that we were drug addicts/dependants/users according to the definition in the DDA (1983):
(1) What the district Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK) officer recommended; which the court was obliged to listen to (but not having to agree to);
(2) How you represented yourself in pleading your case (99.9% would naturally plead to be granted supervision instead of being sent to Pusat first)
(3) The magistrate’s psyche, mentality and inclinations; which decide how his mind (and `self’) interprets it all. Number Three is the most important of all, of course.
While waiting for proceedings to start, the guys rolled a cigarette – none were fasting that day. Except me. Again, I was tempted to have a smoke, but I kept reminding myself that “this is definitely NOT the time to antagonise God”. All the time, I was silently offering “Zikir” (chants) of “Lailla-hailullah” (There is no other God but Allah) and “Allahuakbar” (God is Great) and reading a few Surahs.
Awang Tumpat was rather confident. At that period, there was some confusion as to the interpretation of the DDA section when it comes to those who were under supervision and were arrested again during the period. Yes, they could be charged with “langgar syarat pengawasan” (flouting the clauses of supervision), which carries with it a prison sentence AND whipping (three years, two rotan if I’m not mistaken. Elviza?)
But there was confusion as to whether they could be sent to Pusat, or/and given another supervision order. And so the AADK (then) would withdraw the latest case and set him free. The previous day, another guy who was also still under a supervision order (also named Rahim from Belukar, Pasir Mas) was freed. So Awang was pretty confident that it’ll be the same with him for there was a precedence (this confusion has since been clarified by the Attorney-General)
A friendly kopral came to the cell inside the court and revealed something to us. He said he had seen the district chief AADK officer’s (it was/is Puan Rahimah Awang Lah) recommendation: “From the four of you, only one will be sent to Pusat. The rest will be recommended supervision (PS) and will be able to `Raya’ at home!”
[Pn Rahimah had already taken leave for Raya, and her recommendation was to be read by another senior AADK officer, En Junid. At Pusat, I was sore with both for over a year. But that has long since changed, and it’s mutual respect now, unbelievably:-) ]
GREAT odds here, and quite unusual! Even 50-50 would have been `good enough’. So who would be “The Unlucky One”??… each hoping that he’ll be in “Lucky and Blessed” category. And convincing himself on why “he’s deserving”. (Now obvious and no suspense for you folks, of course. I’m just trying to describe the atmosphere and hopes then)
Awang had thought I was in the second category too. He told me that he didn’t have any money for fare to go home (more than 15 miles away), and whether I could borrow RM10 from anyone in town and give it to him. BTW I had all of RM1 then – had spent the rest to buy tobacco from “nice and obliging policemen” at inflated prices when I was first detained. A 70 sen pack cost RM10. And when my father-in-law and (estranged) wife’s nephew had visited me at Pengkalan Chepa and offered to give me some money (to buy cigarettes in the prison – they just didn’t know the situation), I had declined; feeling happy enough that they had visited me and not wanting to burden them any further.
(BTW, as an aside, this 34-year-old construction-contractor nephew (Azam) was so stone-broke during that period that he had to borrow RM50 from me a couple of months before my arrest. He’s a guy “with exceptional spiritualism and character”. When he was down and out while I was in Pusat, God opened up “His Bounty” – Azam is now a millionaire, with two BMW 5-Series and a big bungalow in Kota Bharu that he had paid for in cash! [Just came back two days ago from a two-week Umrah to Mecca with his mother – once so VERY poor.] More about him another time, just to show that one need not “be nasty” to be rich)
Awang’s mind was also focused on drugs. Plug mentioned that he had “some pil kuda” stashed away inside his rented house and was willing to give us at least one each to celebrate – should we be released. Awang was excited. In fact, they had been talking about this since the previous night. But I didn’t involve myself – I didn’t take part in that kind of conversation from the time I was first detained. I was determined “not to repeat the same mistakes”, and it was sort of “proving myself to God that I’m now honest and sincere with this matter, and deserving to be freed”.
Everyone kept thinking it would be “that young guy” who would be sent to Pusat. Or maybe Plus, for he “had a lengthy criminal record”, was a “PCO” and his urine was positive for methamphetamine and cannabis (mine was for morphine, BTW). So, the general thinking: Awang will go free, then me. It’s a tie between plug Plug and the young guy to get the short end of the straw; or so we thought.
All of us were brought out together into court. For some strange reason, the magistrate does not allow “open access” to outsiders – no spectators. You have to be directly related to someone, or a bailor to get in. I overheard Junid the AADK officer showing a list and saying to the prosecuting officer (PO) – “This guy; case withdrawn…”. Must have been Awang he was referring to.
The first one was Plug. The AADK officer’s recommendation was: Should be given supervision! That means it’ll be a tie between me and the young guy. Things have suddenly moved unfavourably for me! For Plug, now it was time to convince the magistrate that “the AADK is right”. When pleading, he bullshited something like “it’s not often that I take drugs” (a lie – he takes cannabis almost every day. and kuda too).
When asked how the urine could have returned a positive result for cannabis, he said “he was talked and challenged into trying it by some young fellows during a kenduri (feast) two nights before he was arrested … and he wanted to be a good sport”. “What about the methamphetamine?” “I don’t know, really,” he said. “Someone must have spiked my drink with it for as a gag that same night, for I later felt dizzy and went back to sleep”. (Folks, you don’t get dizzy with pil kuda, but “hyped-up and stimulated”. You certainly won’t sleep!)
But the magistrate swallowed it whole (the same magistrate – Azman-something – now involved in the “Nik Sapae” case in Kota Bharu – the guy who had sprayed gas at Dr Mahathir. I’m still a bit sore with him, but I try not to think about it nowadays). And fortunately for Plug, the PO didn’t mention his previous records. The decision: Two-year supervision for Plug.… he gets to “Raya” after all. And polish off or sell the pil kuda he had stashed.
It was my turn next. To my horror, the AADK “noted that I’m a first-timer, and had never received a planned treatment and rehabilitation programme before. As such, it is recommended that he be given the chance to undergo this first before being supervised for two year.”
Oh my gosh! That’s like recommending a death sentence for me, in that time and state! It now depends on me to talk my way out, trying to convince the magistrate why it would be a bad idea to send me to Pusat. I was far more eloquent than the AADK had been, with a lot more points. Good ones too. Even the officer, the PO and the translator kept looking at me. Not to brag here, folks, but I “had experience in speaking and forwarding my points of view, and could move a crowd” (again, `another time’ about this one).
The magistrate required three pages to write down what I had stated. He commented that “morphine is a hard and nasty drug” (which is true) and also asked me how often I had taken them. I replied, which was truthful at that time, that “one a week, or twice at the most” (at that time, Yes; although previously it was a lot heavier). He found that hard to believe, for morphine addicts have to take it every day. And sometimes a number of times every day. He must have concluded that “I was lying; which devalues everything else that I had said”. The decision was: “…to undergo treatment and rehabilitation at Pusat Serenti Gambang for two year; to be followed by a two-year supervision, that requires reporting to the Tok Uban police-station on the 1st of each month, and to attend activities as asked by the AADK.”
I couldn’t believe it! And I felt dizzy, with my head spinning, as I was led back to court’s lockup. Plug was still there (there was some paperwork to be filled before he could be released. The young guy was given supervision too. So, it was me who got the short straw, it had seemed at that time). And then Awang came – his case was withdrawn. He was around for only a few minutes – all happy and excited, naturally. There was not much paperwork required for him, and he was freed; telling Plug that “I’ll wait for you outside” … to the methamphetamine promised.
All of them were then released. Those attending mention were taken back to the prison, and to return another day. As for me, it was back to the police-station lockup; to wait for that transportation to Gambang. I would not be going home yet, despite having already spent three months in an abusive and harsh prison. The following day (Tuesday) was Deepavali; Wednesday was a working day (I could be sent to Gambang on that day). And Thursday, 3 November 2005 … was Hari Raya! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, YA ALLAH!?!
[6:44 AM 19 Sept: Okay, tutup kedai dulu. Will continue this already-too-long post with “Part 5 – A not-so-Selamat Hari Raya in a dank lockup” same place here later. *Update 20 Sept: Had started it as a new Post instead.
I don’t know whether to apologise or what to the readers here for my “writing style/system” – I don’t really know what “the best way” is when it comes to how often I should start a post, the length, content, etc etc. This one “is far too long for a blog’s post”. And “in the raw”/unedited too. Yes, seems so, maybe, not really; I don’t know. I’m a bit confused about this. Ni Elviza punya pasal la, instigating me like that!:-)
Oh, sorry; Tarik Balik – must always remember and keep reminding myself that “Life is about choices” – I/We had chosen to do something, anything … we made the decision.
Anyway, to my loyal readers here – people who are actually interested to read and know about all this – I hope you’ll just bear with whatever idiosyncrasies and irregularities here. I had first intended something like the late 90’s-early 2000 websites at Tripod, that also had “Readers Comments”. I had wanted this to be a journal (that’s why posts tend to be long) … a record for people to read and refer to after I die … children, family, friends – should they want to know “why”, “how”, “what”; of my regrets, shame, hopes… just so they’ll know that “I tried”.
CREDIT: Am using this excellent “Windows Live Writer” after reading a short review of it by Borneo Blues Mat Salo
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