Happiness & contentment in Pusat Serenti Gambang

I keep remembering my stay at Pusat Serenti Gambang (PSG) (government one-stop drug rehabilitation centre) with a lot of fondness and sentimentality. “How could that be so?!”, many might ask. After all, it was “court-ordered” … “incarceration”. Nobody in their right mind would want to go there willingly.

You would be right about that one – I didn’t go willingly. After a dreary three-month at the horrendous Pengkalan Chepa prison, I had fought like hell at the magistrate’s court to be given a two-year supervision. But it was fated. And there’s nothing one could do about it if that was so. And it was just two days before Hari Raya too! Only God knows how I had felt then, spending Deepavali and Raya at a dank police lockup in Pasir Mas (31 Oct-6 Nov `05) while waiting to be sent to Gambang… (See this earlier account if you had missed it and click on the newspaper links)psg_addict Caption: A newcomer to a pusat. Put glasses on them, slighly thinner hair and gaunt face, and that would be a picture of me:-)

But the strange thing was, by the Will of God; plus my attitude, and plus the morale help of those inside and outside the `pusat’, it became among the most memorable and pleasant period of my life! The magic given by God, when we redha (accept)! And I keep remembering and longing for that place even until now…

I’ll surely write more about PSG in the future, but today I’m just going to tell about a few things. First, if you are wondering what “cendana” and “287” mean, it is this: Cendana (“Sandalwood”) was my hostel, and 287 my Registration Number – 287/05 actually, with “05” being the year, of course.

So, who was “cendana286”?  Mat Daud aka “Mat Tiger”, also from Pasir Mas. And “cendana288”? No one – that number belongs to Nik Haizuddin of Kuala Terengganu, but it would be “damar288”.

All `pusats’ follow this system of registration. At PSG, your RN will decide which hostel you go to – after a two-week stay in detox and 3-4 months at the “Orientasi” (either “A” or “B” hostel) when you are a `botak’ (baldie/newcomer) in red t-shirt. Numbers ending in 0-1 go to Meranti; 2-3 Jati; 4-5 Seraya; 6-7 Cendana; 8-9 Damar. And boy, were we competitive and `taksub’ when it comes to loyalty to our hostel and “brothers”!

psj_lambung Caption: A runaway from Pusat Serenti Jerantut this year. See the colour of his shirt. At PS Gambang during my time, 95% of runaways/escapees were the red-shirted Phase 1 trainee/inmate – people who could not/would not accept the court order. These guys risk getting a few whips of the rotan (three, if I’m not mistaken) and a few years in prison. I hope that guy had faked his IC…

Incidentally, out of these ten from 280-299; 281, 282 & 289 all ran away. 285 was transferred to Jerantut (disciplinary). 286 was released early for health reasons.

(Will be continued after `Buka Puasa’. Or `later’)

I found PSG in Google Maps despite my slow connection! Fascinating, and I’m getting all misty-eyed! It’s here: Will try to learn more and put a pin on Cendana.

For what it’s worth, I’ve added the pins. Don’t know how to add the link to it here, but I’ve made it public under my profile of cendana287ATgmail.com (the account that I use for “the other site”). The altitude/longitude (or should that be the other way?) is: 3.747056,103.14953 [18 Sept 2.15 AM Update: I’ve found out how. Here’s the map, plus the pins. It’ll help readers here understand and `feel’ the stories of Gambang. Try enlarging the image to two/three bars below the maximum.


19 thoughts on “Happiness & contentment in Pusat Serenti Gambang

  1. @sherry
    No, memang ada kaitan. I’m very interested in this kind of thing.

    I didn’t know that the Besut commandant is a woman. But one senior officer previously from Gambang (your age & qualifications) went to Besut circa March `06 – Pn. Norazlina from Pasir Puteh.

    Besut is a “pusat harakah” … stresses on religious activities. I heard from those who have been there that the environment is rather stifling. It’s very small (compared to pusats like Gambang, Benta etc); with old wooden buildings closely together. And surrounded by a kampung. Leceh lah…

    BTW, what a brilliant thing Google Maps is!! Despite my very slow connection (have been at it for an hour already) I’ve found a satellite image of PSG – and I can see CENDANA right now! Would you believe it, my eyes are getting misty!

    I’ll provide a link here later. Oh my God! It feels like “I’m back!”:-)

  2. Salam Bro,,
    Komandan tu baru je naik pangkat to 48 sebab tu kena tukar..b4 that kat bachok..masa bulan Mei sama2 pi Korea ngan dia for training ..balik je ada surat tukar to Besut..as for me b4 pi Korea tu alhamdulilah dah naik pangkat.

    Just imagine..komandan pompuan…u should understand better..until now i keep asking that Rahayu,…macamana dia survive….

  3. Wah, you have been to Korea before! DavidR (will write about this wonderful American another time) was/is there.

    I’m trying to wonder too. Bukan nak perlekeh perempuan, ya?:-) But this is a pusat serenti, NOT a college! Some of the inmates are really “macam setan” (like satans)! And they know how to `be buddies’ with some of the officers and auxilliary policemen. Usually, these (often lower-ranking) officers actually hold the inmates in higher esteem than the commandant!

    But I know of at least one successful-enough woman – at Benta. The inmates are happy with her too – if you don’t create any trouble, you’ll be out after just a little past 12 months.

    The other pusats insist on a minimum 13 plus two weeks to 14 months. Or maybe longer; 14-16 mths if you had been sent to solitary confinement. For the really serious cases (like rioting), you’ll be sent to the AADK centre for the incorrigible (tegar) situated inside Kajang Prison. You’ll have to stay the maximum 24 months.

  4. @sherry
    But I should also tell you this. When the “budak pusat” (inmates) respect you, you’ve got it made lah! They’ll die for you, and I’m not exaggerating this peculiar loyalty of many of the inmates.

    Take Gambang’s Haji Ghani for instance. When I was in my second month (Dec 2005), there was a riot (at 8pm). An officer was beaten up by the inmates, windows were broken. The auxillary policemen fled – standard procedure of AADK so as not to worsen things. Plus the fact that some of the “panglima” (warrior) inmates were armed with sticks, metal rods, clubs, spears, parangs, knives and catapults. Some were drunk with home-brewed “samsu” (moonshine).

    But Haji Ghani could come over in his car, get out and walk up to the residents to find out exactly what was happening and to cool things down. We, the newcomers were amazed with his audacity. But we later on learned how much he was respected by ALL – staff and inmates alike.

    Any other high-handed and unpopular commandant would have been lynched by the mob!

  5. Oh man! You can’t do this to me, it’s a good seven or eight more hours before you can continue with the story. Sheesh!

    Trap! trap! trap! (drumming my fingers on the desk every time I get agitated)


  6. @elviza
    Oh, there are people actually waiting to hear this?! It’s just “Tales from the Pusat”.

    But looks like I’ll have to oblige you. Was writing for “the other” site first…

  7. @elviza
    Oops! A friend from Pusat Gambang has just come to my house. Sorry, Elviza: Have to layan my pusat buddies first (You’ll know why and how `later’).

    Sorry, sabar ya… :-)

  8. wah…i paling suka scenes lynched by the mob tu….terbayang-bayang di ruangan mataku.

    btw ,where’s elviza-Write away..i can’t access her blog..i admired her english as well yours…!

    So..citer pasal Woman Di Tempat Kerja and Korea Winter Sonata next time ok..

  9. And now this – a thunderstorm is approaching. Would have to shut down, or risk getting my laptop fried. Now that would not benefit anyone, right?… except perhaps Dollah Badawi and Najib:-)

  10. hi this quote is from my friend Connie Madson’s site she’s a really inspiring person:

    “When I try to be brilliant for vanity’s sake, I end up not brilliant at all. Brilliancy is not unlike how Shakespeare described mercy. ‘It is twice blessed: it blesseth the one who gives and the one who takes.’”

    check it out! http://www.connie-madson.com

    She’s an artist writer, and humanitarian. Her site could change your life!

  11. [Replied via blog & e-mail]
    Hi Gabriel,

    I have checked it out; and YES, she seems to be a special person indeed,
    I will include her link under the “Self-Improvement” category at my humble blog.


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