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Malaysia: ISA detainees tortured
By Zakiah Koya, Kuala Lumpur
|Four women detained under the Internal
Security Act (ISA) during 1987's Operasi Lalang spoke out on the mental
and physical torture they were forced to undergo during their initial
60-day investigative period.
Calling for the immediate release of the 10 ISA detainees arrested over
the past two weeks and also three others who were arrested for allegedly
professing Shiite beliefs, the four women said their own experiences had
taught them not to believe statements issued by the authorities on the
The four women, who spoke at a press conference organized by the Womens
Agenda for Change (WAC), said the fact that families were denied from
visiting the recent detainees leads to the belief that those arrested are
The four are Universiti Putra Malaysia retired assistant professor Dr
Cecilia Ng, womens issues activist Lim Chin Chin, founder member of the
Womens Development Centre (WDC) and All Womens Action Society (Awam) Dr
Chee Heng Leng and Sahabat Wanitas Irene Xavier.
Xavier said that during her first 60 days, she was subjected to
physical torture including holding up her foot so that she could be
Detention under ISA is secret and detainees need not appear before
magistrates, thus eliminating safeguards for the safety of detainees, she
Xavier, who was arrested by the Singapore police and then sent across the
causeway to Malaysian police, said that she was quite taken aback by the
solidarity of the two countries in her arrest.
I was at the mercy of the police, but that would be wrong for me to say,
for the police has no mercy whatsoever.
I was then on medication for a condition called endometriosis but I was
not given my medication until after a month I was arrested. There is only
one word to describe the interrogation - violent, said Xavier.
She said that she was humiliated and it was her first time experiencing
violence as not even my father had laid his hand on me.
To get new underwear, I had to show my soiled sanitary pad. I was beaten
and during those particular sessions, no policewomen would be present.
They would ask me to choose whether I wanted to be beaten by a metal piece
or a wooden piece.
Without me stating my preference, they would beat me hard on the legs and
on my soles. During these beatings, I was required to hold my foot up to
be beaten, said Xavier.
She said that she does not believe that the 10 arrested under the ISA over
the past two weeks are safe. Prove me wrong - even if they have to be
produced before judges who have endeared themselves to the police, she
Dr Chee said that she was one of the first to be arrested under the
Operasi Lalang in 1987, an operation launched by the government on
religious leaders, NGO leaders and opposition party members in the wake of
the economic and political turmoil then.
The way a person is arrested under ISA is designed to intimidate and
instil fear and terror, said Chee.
I was made to feel totally defenceless and the ISA allows for this. They
ransacked my house for three hours before they took me away and put me
through a non-stop 72-hour interrogation.
I was handcuffed, made to wear blacked-out spectacles, and put in a
windowless cell, through which food was sent in through a small opening in
the door. I was deprived of footwear, underwear and change of clothes. For
the first two nights, I had to sleep on a plywood, without a blanket, said
She said that they would interrogate her by banging on tables and chairs
and using abusive language. At times they pretended to inject her with
poisonous substances, she added. During detention, the possibility of us
seeing any family member is totally dependent on the captors. Later, I
would have to earn these visits by cooperating and telling them what they
wanted to hear, said Chee, who was moved to the Kamunting Detention Camp
after the initial 60-day period.
Lim, who was arrested on Oct 27, 1987, said she was told by the team
of six police officers who arrested her that she was likely to act in a
manner prejudicial to the country.
I was taken in an unmarked car, transferred into a Black Maria, then taken
to an unknown destination where I was stripped of everything and made to
wear loose clothing. I was deprived of footwear and underwear and even my
spectacles, which I had been wearing since I was nine, said Lim.
She said she was handcuffed and blindfolded and put in a small, filthy,
windowless cell with a cement bunk and a toilet.
I was interrogated for more than 15 hours a day and during the
interrogation there would be a powerful air conditioner blowing down my
On my 15th day, I was able to meet my family but only for about 10
minutes. When I requested legal assistance, my interrogators ridiculed me
saying there was no such provision under the ISA.
I suffered from headaches - due to my spectacles being taken away -besides
muscle cramps and pains from sitting on chairs with three legs, said Lim.
She said that all this was done to humiliate her and the 60-day
confinement in isolation was to demoralize the detainee by cutting off all
access to information.
I depended solely on my interrogators for all information. I wanted to
know what was going on outside and they told me that so and so has been
arrested and has confessed, which was all untrue.
They played on my guilt and the pain I had brought upon my family. They
fed me with misinformation and it was impossible to discern the truth from
lies. In view of the powers vested to the police under the ISA, it must be
abolished, said Lim.
Bulldoze their way
Dr Ng said that she was the last person to be arrested during Operasi
Lalang. I was away for a project in Indonesia and when I returned, I was
arrested under the ISA for allegedly promoting communism and middle-class
struggle. All the charges were fabricated. Such lies will continue to be
the order of the day under this dictatorial state, which continues to hide
behind the insidious mask of ISA, said Ng, who did not relate what
happened during her ISA detention. q