(Courtesy of Malaysiakini.tv, uploaded October 21, 2007)
MALEK HUSSIN: My ISA Detention Horror
People often forget incidents of the past but for former ISA detainee Abdul Malek Hussin, one horror event will forever be etched in his mind - his 57 days of living hell in detention.
Abdul Malek Hussin, 51, was this week awarded RM2.5 million in damages against the government over his arrest and torture in 1998. This was the result of a civil suit he filed in March 1999, naming special branch officer Borhan Daud, the then Inspector General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor and the government as respondents.
It has been nine years since the chairperson of polls watchdog Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) was detained under the obnoxious Internal Security Act and he recollects every moment of it in an interview with Malaysiakini.
Here are some excerpts:
Can you relate to us what happened then - what did they do to you and how you felt?
When (former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim) was expelled by the government on allegations of immoral activities, there was widespread dissent among the people against the injustice of (Anwar’s arrest) and as a private citizen, I undertook to support the cause of justice for Anwar. I was among the many who were unhappy with how the government under Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) used and abused powers to expel Anwar, and I decided to show my support.
I was involved with the reformasi movement from the first day - on Sept 4, 1998. After the arrest of Anwar Ibrahim, I took the initiative to organise another massive gathering to demand the release of Anwar and the resignation of Mahathir and Inspector-General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor then. I led the gathering at Masjid Negara on September 25, five days after Anwar was arrested.
(Later that day) I was arrested at my home. It was about 10-11pm and I was staying in Ampang. I returned (home) in a car driven by a friend who dropped me (off) about 200 metres from my house and the police arrested me at the gate. I was handcuffed and forced to open the gate of my house by the arresting party led by ASP Borhan Daud.
First, he forced me to open (my house door) and of course I asked him, “Why are you handcuffing me?” and he said I was being arrested under the ISA. I asked, “Why do you need to handcuff me?” He said, “ISA” - and I asked him, “What's the reason for my arrest?” (and he said) “ISA.” He mentioned it like some mechanical and robotic answer that everything was (under the) ISA.
He then said he wanted to conduct a search in my house and I asked him where was the warrant. In fact, I asked for the warrant of arrest under the ISA. He said it was not necessary and I asked him why and he said well, ISA, and he said I should know that.
He wanted to search my house and I asked him where was the warrant of search and again, he said it was not necessary, and I asked him why, and he said (again) ISA. I called my kids and my family to open the door and the policemen went in with their shoes, straightaway to the ground floor and the first floor of my house.
Then they went to my study room and ransacked and checked all my documents. He entered my master bedroom where my wife and children were sleeping. My wife was shocked and asked me what was happening and I showed her the handcuffs and when she asked me why, I said, “ISA.”
They confiscated some documents and they also recorded the documents. After 40 minutes in my house, they told me to leave with them. I was then asked where was my car. Borhan forced me to show him my car and I said I was driven by a friend and I was dropped about 200 metres away. I showed Borhan exactly the spot where I was dropped.
My friend had just left the scene. (Borhan) became so angry and irritated by my response that he slapped me there and then - the pain I can feel until today. There is this drizzling sound I am still hearing it now, until today. I think I have got more than 40-50 percent hearing loss in my left ear. When this was brought up in the courts, Borhan denied it.
After that, he forced me into the car, it was not a police car, it was an unmarked car. I was told to wear a certain (pair of) spectacles with blurred vision but then I realised that the frame here (on the left) was broken and I told them that it was broken and they told me to (take off) my specs, and one of the officers (took) off his black T-shirt and wrapped my whole head (inside it).
You can imagine the smell from the T-shirt which he must have worn from early morning and it was then midnight. It was so smelly. The worst thing is the smell of a Special Branch officer's T-shirt. They forced me down inside the car. I knelt down and was told not to look anywhere because they did not want me to know where I would be taken.
They drove, and about a few minutes later the car stopped at a location. I didn't know where. They then carried me up a staircase of a building which later turn out to be the IPK (Kuala Lumpur Police Contingent headquarters).
They brought me to a room and I was told to sign a certain (piece of) paper which stated that I was arrested under the ISA prepared by Borhan - so Borhan was the arresting officer.
After that they told me to undress - to take off my shirt and my trousers. I thought that was okay because I knew ISA detainees would be given a special detention uniform - blue in colour - so I thought I would be given a new uniform.
(After) I undressed myself completely, suddenly an officer handcuffed me very tightly from the back and there were about six to eight officers in front of me in a small room on the first floor. I was handcuffed and they blindfolded me with two (pieces of) black cloth and I was completely disoriented. I did not know who they were so I guess they were all the arresting officers led by Borhan.
Then Borhan kicked and punched me, and I can hear his voice right in front of me... I can recognise his voice. One officer took a hard object and hit me on the right leg, another officer hit me on the left leg and then they started punching my face. Then I was given a flying kick, a side kick...
Soon I fell unconscious for the first time, and they poured water and forced me to stand up again and I fell unconscious again - all in all a total of five times. And I also counted how many times I was hit by using my fingers - altogether it was 63 hits. After that I could not withstand it and I passed out. That was what I could recall consciously.
In one of those moments, I was hit by a very powerful punch and suddenly my blindfold dropped down and right in front of me was (Abdul) Rahim Noor who was wearing a red (boxing) glove. He was wearing an Indonesian batik (shirt), dark trousers and brown polished shoes. I could remember and I described that in court in detail.
And because the (blindfold) had fallen, I was shocked and he was also shocked because I could recognise him and he just ran away behind the door, and the officers all fled the scene because they did not want to be recognised. Then they turned me to the wall and blindfolded me again and the beating went on until I passed out.
When I regained consciousness, it was still before 4am. They told me to go to another room with the air-cond in full blast. I was still stripped naked and my body was aching from the beatings. The air-cond was right in the middle of the room, and for every couple of minutes they poured cold water on my head... I was shivering. They asked me whether I was cold and I said yes, and they poured more cold water until about 4.30 am. Then they stopped, no questions asked.
During that ordeal, Borhan asked me if I was thirsty after all the beatings and I said “Of course.” Then suddenly one person would be holding me from the back and another opening my mouth wide open with his fingers. They then poured this dirty, rancid tasting liquid into my mouth. It was urine and they told me it was urine. Their urine, not mine. They just peed between them and they forced into my mouth two cans of their urine.
When they asked if I was hungry or not, I said, “Of course, I am hungry.” Borhan told his officers to prepare tahi anjing (dog faeces) for me. It was near to my mouth, I could smell the stench.
And he threatened me that he wanted to use the syringe which contains HIV virus to be injected into my body because I told him, “You better kill me. What's the point? What are you trying to prove? What are you doing here? Why are you so cruel?” I asked them. (He said) “Oh you wanna die, oh then we'll kill you slowly, we'll put the HIV virus into you”. Of course, they didn't do that.
After about 5am, they stopped the beatings. I think they were also tired and went home.
On September 26, by mid-afternoon, I was taken to Bukit Aman and placed in solitary confinement only to see sunshine on the 28th day of my detention. So if you ask what's my feeling about that, (it was) very cruel and inhumane. (The police) are not human. I feel even animals have compassion. Even dogs know their masters and even dogs don't bite any other people. They are worst than dogs. If people say they are anjing kerajaan (government dogs), I think at that time they were worse then dogs.
How were you treated there (in Bukit Aman)?
I wasn't allowed to contact anybody. A couple of days later, before the 28th day, they asked if I wanted to see my family. Of course, before meeting the family they would arrange a special session for me not to mention anything about what happened to me, not to give any hint that I was tortured and to show to the family that everything was okay, and to convince my family (not to file) a habeas corpus (a court application challenging the detention) or else (I) will not be released. So the threat was there.
And I told my investigating officers in Bukit Aman that I was tortured in IPK (Kuala Lumpur Police Contingent headquarters) and I want to make a police report against Borhan, they said, “No, you don't need to - we have already taken action against Borhan”. Which was, of course, not true.
I was not given any opportunity to lodge any report, not given any opportunity to meet my lawyer, no access to my family and I was only given medical attention a couple of days later in Bukit Aman.
I told the doctor and he checked me and it was confirmed in the medical report about the bruises on the left leg, the right leg, the abdomen... I complained to Dr Vasantha Ponniah about what happened to me and she had testified in court about my condition based on the bruises that I sustained.
(The) Special Branch (police) methodology is (to) give harsh treatment on the first day as a very strong reminder to the detainees that things are going to be worse if we fail to give our cooperation. It's more psychological in nature. And of course in Bukit Aman it is already more institutionalised in terms of how they handle the detainees.
I was under solitary confinement, there was no sunshine, I did not know whether it was the morning, I did not know at all. On the 28th day, on the (day of) family visit when I was taken to IPK from Bukit Aman - I really appreciate the sunlight, it was wow, the beauty of the sunrays. I tell you, it was beautiful.
What was interrogation like?
I was subjected to interrogation for 17 days on the third floor of the (Bukit Aman) building. They would ask me questions from the morning, afternoon, until evening and then sometimes, late in the night. Once when they were dissatisfied with what was going on outside where people were still gathering on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (and) in Kampung Baru, they were unhappy so they call me very late in the night for further interrogation until early morning.
During the course of the interrogation by Bukit Aman officers, the questions they asked day in and day out - questions about the reformasi movement, on Anwar Ibrahim, his relationship with this person and that person.
Then Nurul Izzah was meeting (deposed Philippines president Joseph) Estrada in the Philippines and (former US secretary of state) Madeline Albright. I was inside and the activities were outside, and they were asking me what was this Gerak (reformasi coalition) and that was formed, and about political reform, on PAS, on whether ISA should be abolished or not.
They deprived me of utensils if they found I was not cooperative enough. (They would) pull out the mattress or take away the pillows. After the family visited, they told me I would only be detained for a month and they would release me. (They said) if I do not get the recommendation to release me, then they would extend it until the end, and it went on until the 57th day.
There were also days when they (did) nothing. They would send the food and at that time, I got food it was like packed rice and fish with maggots. That means it was done on purpose. I mean we were detainees and this food was supposed to be provided by the government ... this means the state had provided me with rotten food.
What happened after your release?
I was released on November 21 and subjected to some kind of monitoring... appointed by the Special Branch to monitor my activities. I have to report to them and they even threatened me that I could even be re-arrested.
I must cooperate with them and the psychology was that they have the power to re-arrest me. So there was that constant fear in me of being re-arrested. It took me quite some time to gather the strength and courage to lodge a police report, and I arrived at that decision in March (1999).
What influenced me much more was when the government decided to form the royal commission on (Anwar’s black eye incident) when we read about the testimony of Dr Vasantha Ponniah. Then I remembered “Well, that's the lady who treated me.” I thought that was some help. I thought that with the formation of the royal commission there will be some space to make a complaint.
From then on (during the trial), when I was cross-examined in the court, they asked me why I took such a long time. Well, this is not a road accident. This is something you have been tortured, subjected to. You need to rebuild that courage back.
Were you scared? Did you ever feel like giving up?
I tried not to look scared although I was very scared. I feel the Special Branch (officers) are almost everywhere. (I felt) intimidated but to regain that, you have to meet people, and you have to talk to people. Slowly, I started to tell people (about) what (had) happened in detention.
They were really surprised. Then friends convinced me - why not I speak out, and in February I spoke at an event organised by (opposition alliance Malaysian People's Movement for Justice) Gerak by (the late former PAS president) Fadzil Noor in Kuala Lumpur's Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in February 1999.
I regained my courage and you have to make the most of the (police) report. And you have the understanding that you (would) be accused of making a false report. I have to prepare a very lengthy police report and very detailed and an affidavit to file for the civil suit.
How does your family feel about all this?
They are used to what I have been doing. They are very supportive of my activities. The fact that my children and wife knew that I’ve already resolved to report (on) activities for the rights of the people, political activities or social activism.
They've been very supportive in the sense that there has been no resentment from my family.
I SALUTE MALEK HUSSIN & JUSTICE HISHAMUDDIN MOHD YUNUS FOR THEIR COURAGE IN BRINGING TO LIGHT THE HIDEOUS DARKNESS THAT LURKS UNDER THE CYNICAL GUISE OF "NATIONAL SECURITY."
THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE ISA DESERVE TO BE WRITTEN OFF AS HUMAN BEINGS.