My 18 hours under the Internal Security Act

On 12 September, about eight thirty in the evening, I was at my home in Bukit Mertajam, Penang. While enjoying my yew char koay (fried dough stick), I was worried about the show cause letter issued to Sin Chew Daily, and anxious about the days ahead for my newspaper.

Suddenly, a group of plain cloth police officers appeared at my front gate. The person who started to identify the group and the purpose of this visit was a woman officer. She was also the only one in her uniform.

Through the gate, she told me that I have to follow them to the Police station, in response to that I told her that unless they have a warrant of arrest, I will not open the gate. At the same time, I immediately rung up the legal adviser of our company and my direct superior, seeking their advice.

Later, the female officer told me that they are arresting me under Internal Security Act, therefore a warrant is not required. On hearing that, I was immediately was prepared for the worst.

I have to act calm, comforting my parents and reassuring them that my colleagues would be waiting for me at the police station to render assistance. When I was taken away, my parents acted strongly, they kept on asking the police to accord me with proper treatment.

I was brought to Seberang Perai Tengah IPD (district head office), and I was placed in a chilling cold room while waiting for the police to begin their paperwork. I was accompanied by a female officer who seemed to be trembling as a result of the low room temperature as well. To break the silence, I initiated a conversation. She told me, "You seemed to be very calm."

I told her, "I am arrested under the Internal Security Act, even though I am scared, I have to face this reality. But I am worried about my parents, friends and relatives, they must be very worried about me."

To be frank, I was very cool-headed. I believed that there must be a lot of people out there supporting me, giving me the strength that I need, so I must stay strong, to be with these people who are supporting me.

The police recorded all my personal belongings, these were later taken away from me. After that, I am considered ready to be sent to the Police Contingent Headquarters in Penang. When I was brought out of the police station, I realised that a lot of my colleagues in the media, together with representative from different parties and groups were already waiting outside the Police station to show their support. Seeing this,I was deeply touched, I could no longer hold my tears.

When the police car arrived at the station's entrance, my superior, Puah Eu Peng, our Northern Region Manager, tried to halt the car with his body, to slow the police car's movement. He knocked at the window, to make sure that I was in the car and gestured to show me his support.

I instantly wiped off my tears, I realised that a lot of them are staying with me, I must be with them as well.

After taking my thumbprints, I was given my dinner and arranged to spend my night in remand. It was not to my knowledge that my colleagues in the profession and people from different groups and parties were there to show their support, right outside that station.

I requested the female officer to keep the lights on. She told me not to worry, she will not switch off the lights. The police also informed me that I would be meeting my parents tomorrow morning at eight. I have spent a very long time, thinking of everything that I have to tell my parents. I have lost touch with the outside world this is my only opportunity, I must cherish it, to clearly explain everything to my parents.

After clearing my mind and organising my thoughts, I tried to sleep while lying on the wooden bed with the company of the mosquitoes and the noise of water dripping. I have no idea what tomorrow holds for me, but I know I have to be in my perfect condition to handle everything.

I have never suffered from insomnia and this very night, I finally experienced it. Deep down in my heart, I know that those who care about me, would also be experiencing the same, my heart wrenched thinking of that.

At 6 o'clock in the next morning, when I was about to wash up, the female officer passed me the clothing brought by my parents. I was surprised; everything was new, the toiletries, t-shirts, shorts, panties.

I later discovered that the 'parents' that the police officer was referring to were a bunch of my colleagues. While waiting outside the Penang Police Contingent Headquarter, they have prepared all these for me. They were uncertain when I would be released, but they told themselves that they must get these necessity items ready in the briefest time possible.

I met my parents and bided them goodbye, the police informed me that they would bring me to the Police Headquarter in Bukit Aman in Kuala Lumpur. My heart sank, I told myself this is the beginning of it, I must brace myself for everything.

After few turns of event, I was eventually brought to the Perak Police Headquarter in Ipoh. After a brief interrogation session, I was brought back to Penang Police Headquarter again.

It was here, where I was interrogated further. I told myself to keep my mind clear, I must tell them the truth, and respond appropriately.

After the interrogation session, I was brought to see another higher-ranked officer, he told me, "We can both go home now!". Both of us turned to the clock on the wall, the time was 2.25p.m.

This my 18 hours under ISA. I have gone through a lot

After being released, I received a lot of messages, telephone calls and bouquets. My colleagues in the press, representatives from political parties, society leaders, schoolmates, classmates, friends and relatives have visited me at home. Of course, not forgetting the readers and the public who called up or visited Sin Chew Daily's office in Penang or the Head Office in Petaling Jaya.

Calls, messages, well wishes, and visits from readers and friends. To all of them, I have to express my deepest gratitude. During that 18 hours which was filled with a lot of uncertainties, I felt that there is some unknown strength that has supported me throughout, I knew it must be from you all, those whom I knew or have not met!

I realise that our journey is still full with challenges and obstacles, so we have to continue the same righteous spirit and courage that we have all shown this time! Our society needs this spirit, to build a better tomorrow.

I have finally been freed, but I hope Teresa Kok and Raja Petra Kamaruddin and all those detainees under the Internal Security Act, could be released as soon as as possible. If the authorities think that they have broken the law, they should brought to the court of law to receive transparent and fair trials. (By TAN HOON CHENG/ Sin Chew Daily, Penang)

MySinchew 2008.09.15