Archive for November 2009


MOGADISHU, Wednesday

(picture is from another stonning)

An unnamed woman was stoned to death at Eel-boon in Wajid district, 330 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu, on Wednesday.
She was sentenced by an Islamic court after she was found guilty of adultery.

The woman was taken to a square, her body half buried and then stoned.

A crowd was present as well as officials of al-Shabaab, an Islamist movement that opposes the Transitional Federal Government and controls a large territory in Southern and Central Somalia.

A young man, who was also caught in the same adulterous act, received 100 strokes of the cane.

According to Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Abdurahman, a judge of the Islamic court who sentenced the woman to death and the man to whipping said the cases differed.

“The woman was had been married before and under Sharia (Islamic law) she is to be stoned to death upon proof,” said Sheikh Abdurahman.

“The young man with no previous marriage experience is to receive 100 whips under the same law,” he added.

Last Friday, another Islamic court that falls under the control of al-Shabaab sentenced a young man to death by stoning in Marka town, 110 kilometres south of Mogadishu. He was found guilty of committing adultery following a case of alleged rape.

At a football stadium facing the Indian Ocean, the condemned man was taken to a corner of the playground, his body half buried in dirt before youngsters started hitting him with stones.

Before the execution, the clergymen who rule Marka town and surrounding areas announced that a woman who had also been sentenced for committing adultery was in custody, to be stoned.

The woman is said to be pregnant.

Al-Shabaab and Hizbu Islam, the Islamist groups that strongly oppose the TFG, generally enforce the severe punishments.

In 2008, a teenage girl was accused of adultery in Kismayu, 500 kilometres south of Mogadishu, sentenced by a court and stoned to death.

[Translation to English by CPI]

Anatomy of an ISA operation

Arrested: Mat Sah Mohd Satray, a technician working with Dewan Bahasa Pustaka (DBP) was linked to Abu Bakar Bashir accused of heading the Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI). Mat Sah had made Abu Bakar’s acquaintance when he attended a course conducted by the latter, and his attendance at the course one made compulsory by DBP itself.

Tortured: April 2002, Mat Sah was interrogated throughout the day by three officers who took turns in the questioning session. Mat Sah, who was made to sit shivering under the air-conditioner, was not allowed to use the toilet and only provided with a mineral water bottle to ease himself.

The next day on April 18, 2002, the mainstream media published news that Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) was engaged in sabotage by attempting to blow up Port Klang. It was a period of mass unease following the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States.

Detained: Mat Sah’s habeas corpus application was unsuccessful when the judge ruled that “the international community is now engaged in a war against terror”.

If, however, Mat Sah was really a terrorist, what ‘rebab’ programme is run in Kamunting? Inmates are given irrelevant training like how to make pickles, ferment soya bean and other such culinary skills.

Locked up: In a room without any lamp. Seven wasted years … held without evidence, without recourse to justice; without a view of the sky or the stars.

Released: Sept 15, 2009, “He (Mat Sah) was not set free. He was thrown out of the Kamunting camp and dumped on my doorstep,” is how his wife Norlaila Othman views it.

Provisos: He is required to remain within the police district of Ampang Jaya, Selangor; and not permitted to leave the area without written consent from the state Chief of Police. In other words, Mat Sah is only allowed to move around in Ampang.

Curfew: Mat Sah must report himself at the police station every Monday, and has to remain in his home between the hours of 9pm and 6am, unless obtaining permission from the police to break curfew.

Preventive order: He is not allowed to speak in public; is barred from joining societies and organizations; and banned from taking part in political events.

Merdeka Review interviews Mat Sah and Norlaila




Kesian dia Mat Sah, even until the day he dies, people will say he is a terrorist’. When in truth, Mat Sah is a good man who was oppressed and made a scapegoat,” lamented Norlaila who had been active in fighting for her husband’s release through the NGOs and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI).

The authorities came increasingly under pressure following the ‘Abolish ISA’ demonstration on Aug 1 which catalyzed the release of five detainees before Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year. Mat Sah does not give any credence to the government’s statement that the detainees were released after having completed their ‘rehabilitation’.

After tens of thousands of people flooded the heart of Kuala Lumpur crying ‘ISA must go!’, Special Branch (SB) from Bukit Aman who previously used to make half yearly visits to Kamunting were suddenly briefing Mat Sah on a fortnightly basis.

From contact with his SP interrogators in the camp with where he was imprisoned, Mat Sah learnt of the public anger against ISA gaining momentum.

Mat Sah recalled how the SB officers looked harassed after the demonstration. One of the consequences arising from the demo was that Mat Sah – one of ISA’s longest-held detainee still in camp then – was taken to the Kuala Lumpur remand centre to be brainwashed. He was rained a variety of questions in addition to being subjected to propaganda on why the ISA should be retained.

Made to undergo polygraph test

On the night of Apr 17, 2002, Mat Sah was arrested under ISA. He was set upon by 12 policemen at his home and handcuffed while the house was ransacked. “When I asked to see his warrant of arrest, they said ‘no need warrant’ because they were ‘Grade A officers’,” said Norlaila.

Subsequently Mat Sah was labelled a member of ahli JI and KMM without trial. How strange then that “they never even mentioned the word ‘JI’ atau ‘KMM’ (during his arrest). They only said “‘we have our reasons to arrest you under ISA because you are a threat to national security”.

The experience of his first two years in custody is still clearly etched in Mat Sah’s memory.

“Mat Sah, we cannot release you. Malaysia has made a joint commitment with Asean and [a promise to] the United States to combat terrorism. If we let you go, what will they say?” – This was the reason given Mat Sah by Bukit Aman.

Detainees were required to take a polygraph test to ascertain if they were lying to the authorities. “They gave me the test twice, once last year, and again this year. The last time they (the SB) said I failed. Yet this time, surprisingly I passed despite my replies being the same on both occasions.”

Mat Sah added, “I saw that they already harboured the intention of letting me go. Saying that (I passed the polygraph test) was merely their convenient excuse.”

‘Your wife needs to slow down a bit’

If the ostensible reason for releasing Mat Sah does not hold water, what about the reasons for extending his ISA detention order?

“Firstly, [they said I] did not obey the rules; secondly, my wife was too vocal…” Mat Sah explained to the journalists, stealing a glance at Norlaila. In fact, the authorities made an example of Mat Sah to dissuade the families of other detainees from stepping forward to publicize the ISA issue.

Although they did not say so directly but Mat Sah got the message from their conversations with him that the SB was hinting his wife “should go slow” on her activism.

The journalists then asked if it ever crossed Mat Sah’s mind to advise his wife to ‘back off’. With disarming frankness Mat Sah replied, “I’m only repeating what the SB said…”, and this adroit sidestepping eliciting smiles from the journalists.

Norlaila who was seated at Mat Sah’s side was eager to re-enact their dialogue. In a soft voice, Norlaila said (she told her husband in Kamunting), “If you forbid me from campaigning (for your freedom), I will refuse to visit you here anymore-lah…”

The journalists laughed at the antics of the husband-and-wife pair. Nonetheless, it was with a sober realization that behind the light-heartedness of day, their painful past still lurked around the corner and haunted them.

Mat Sah resumed his story of what went through his mind when the SB wanted his wife to keep a low profile. He said one of his fellow inmates was Dr Abdullah Daud from Johor. Although Dr Abdullah’s his wife did nothing to agitate the authorities, his detention was similarly extended anyway.

Refused to sing Negaraku

In any case, it was not as if Norlaila was active right from the start. In fact, Mat Sah obeyed all the camp rules and regulations in the hope that he would be released after two years.

Nonetheless, Mat Sah could see that the Al-Ma’unah detainees who were ‘well-behaved’ (obeyed all the rules) were not set free, whereas the reformasi detainees who were ‘bad’ (did not co-operate with the camp authorities) were let go.

From then on, Mat Sah commenced his own programme of non-cooperation, refusing to sing Negaraku every morning at 7 o’clock. In the meantime, Norlaila began campaigning in the public – presenting her memorandum to Suhakam, giving talks and other activities.

Norlaila’s efforts failed to secure Mat Sah his release but instead earned him even more severe punishment.

On Feb 23, 2006, Norlaila decided to ambush the Prime Minister during an event organized by Felda, where she managed to hand over her memorandum to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who replied with “Insya-Allah”.

In retaliation for her initiative which took the authorities by surprise, Mat Sah was put in solitary confinement for three years. This act was seen as a warning to other detainees so that their families would not follow in Norlaila’s footsteps …

‘The government has destroyed my husband!’

The ISA not only devastated their lives but its insidious effect has seeped into their very bones.

“I feel that he has been made stupid, not ‘rehabilitated’ throughout those seven years” said Norlaila point blank. “The isolation from human company, the rules enforced on him caused Mat Sah to regress mentally.”

When asked about Mat Sah’s personality seven years ago, Norlaila commented, “He was a very cheerful person … an affectionate father.

We lost everything for seven years, including the job.”

Norlaila recalled how she had to fork out her own money to repair the ‘damage’ done to her husband who was ‘broken’ while being held in Kamunting. She bore the cost of his dental treatment and medical care (for his leg) while he was under detention, and at the same time spending money to buy her husband and his fellow detainees better food during her visits to Kamunting.

“He was not a criminal!”

Mat Sah became a changed man, and reacted with hesitancy to the world [after having spent seven years isolated under ISA’s so-called preventive detention].

Norlaila reflected, “Upon his release, he was like a newborn just emerged from a cave. He didn’t know anything … when we went out, so many things were alien to him; he kept asking a lot of questions …”

There was once when Norlaila took Mat Sah to the market. She was surprised to hear him shout ‘Ikan!’ and pointing to a fish on display at the stall. His behaviour perplexed Norlaila who turned the fish over to check what could be so extraordinary about it. As it turned out, [CPI editor’s note: possibly after seven years of anchovies on the menu], Mat Sah had forgotten that fish could be big in size.

At the supermarket, Mat Sah was careful in his step, fearful that other shoppers would collide into him. [After the long solitary confinement, he is yet to get used to people and crowds]. His ISA detention had resulted in Mat Sah’s world shrinking to a void. He has fallen out of step with technological advances and is overwhelmed by modern gadgets like mobiles and smart-tag, plus unfamiliar with the Internet.

The first day that he stepped into his home after spending seven years in bare cell, Mat Sah reacted as if the house was overly ‘cluttered’, when in fact the living room contained only the sofa and a few decorations, Norlaila remembered.

Growing up without a father

“Of course I’m very upset. And I will curse those officers … the wicked SBs who arrest people under ISA, who keep them locked up for years, who invent all kinds of excuses to prevent their release,” Norlaila told the journalists.

Unlike other ISA detainees who expressed gratitude to the government for their release, Norlaila has reminded Mat Sah only to ‘bersyukur’ to God, not to the government because it is this government that has caused his family so much grief.

For seven long years, Mat Sah’s only son Suhaib had missed his father. Even though Mat Sah has now returned to the embrace of one who for half his life grew up without a father figure, they are having a hard time making up for the lost years.

According to Norlaila, Mat Sah is unsure about how to interact his son, today a teenager. Similarly when Suhaib wants to talk to Mat Shah, he would look to his mother Norlaila for direction.

“For too long they have been apart…,” Norlaila admitted that the lapsed relationship between father and son is one that requires mending. Norlaila herself was confronted with a similar awkwardness. The first night that Mat Sah was released and returned home, she felt that it was a stranger who was in her bedroom.

Suhaib has been unnerved by how his father seems slow in his movements and thought processes. He once asked his mother, while giving his father a sidelong look and gesturing with a finger pointing to the head: “Is he okay up there?”

Majority of ISA victims were leftists

Unlike Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who was known as the ‘wife of the Deputy Prime Minister’ before her husband fell from power, Norlaila was only a secondary school teacher. When Anwar Ibrahim was brought down, his family had the support of the reformasi movement, and were the focus of international media attention. Anwar was seen as a prisoner of conscience.

Not so with Norlaila’s family. Even PAS – painted as having links with terrorists by the BN propaganda machine – was reluctant to extend a helping hand to Mat Sah’s family.

Nonetheless, Norlaila was not alone and she recalled the assistance given her by the reporters from Harakah, Malaysiakini and others. More importantly, when Norlaila was at her wits end, friends from GMI lent her their shoulder to cry on.

During the period of her struggle to free Mat Sah, she has been diligent in her research. Armed with her newly acquired knowledge, Norlaila has made it her mission to correct public misconception about ISA.

From her reading, Norlaila learned that the ISA dragnet included many of those categorized as ‘leftists’. These were people belonging to organizations that fought for the rights of labourers, factory workers, farmers and other marginalized communities.

Over the last seven years, Norlaila has tried her level best to free her husband and get the ISA abolished. “I have done all that I’ve had to do with civility. However when the government is ‘kurang ajar’ to us, then we have to continue to educate this government.”

Lim Hong Siang is editor of ‘Merdeka Review’, Malay edition. The interview above was conducted by Lim together with his colleague Chen Shaua Fui. This summary is edited and reformatted by CPI with permission from ‘Merdeka Review’ and can be read in its Malay version, ISA: ‘Saya akan sumpah SB-SB yang jahat!’

The full interview can be read in the Merdeka Review four-parter below:

FREE ALL ISA DETAINEES "The land belongs to the countless numbers of people who are dead, the few who are living and the multitude of those yet to be born". child2