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LETTER FROM TIAN CHUA 25th NOVEMBER 1998 (received 26/11/98 by SUARAM)

Campbell Police Station
Jalan Dang Wangi
Kuala Lumpur
 
 

Dear friends,

Now is 24/11, midnite. I am spending my fourth night in the lock-up. There are about 14 others so-called ‘reformasi’ inmates kept in here. Some of them were arrested during the KLCC demo; and various other occasions. The first night I was kept with the big cell with mostly drug-related OKT (Orang Kena Tahan/inmates) as the police called them. The next cell, cell No 4. is the ‘reformasi’ cell where most suspected supporters of reformasi were kept.

Life in here, needless to say, is extremely boring. We try to keep ourselves in high spirits. I moved over to Cell 4 when the police on duty did not notice. From time to time, police would try to separate me from the group. I repeatedly went back when they changed shift. However whenever I got moved, I would use the opportunity to chat with other OKTs, do some ED. Tonight I am shifted to Cell 6 because this afternoon, when a few of the ‘reformasi’ detainees were taken for 113, they all answered, "I will tell in court". The Investigating Officer, Selva, got very pissed off and asked the police to separate me. The police officers also from time to time use racial sentiments to frighten people. They told the ‘reformasi’ detainees not to listen to NGOs and also specifically said that they were Malay thus should not expect assistance from non-Malay NGOs. The I.O. Selva also told the magistrate during my remand hearing that one of the reason for my detention was I, being a Chinese, was present in a Malay area. Can U believe that? We are not only living in a fascist state, the government is also establishing an apartheid! Racialism seems to the last trump card Mahathir can use to break the people’s movement. The police (CID & SB included) all repeat the same line about racial riots - Bosnia, Indonesia etc.

Most of the time, when we are being interrogated, the officers would be endlessly lecturing us about the country will be broken up like Bosnia or Indonesia. What do they know about what really happened in these places? It is clear that the regime is using the old trick in its last desperate attempt to cling to power. But I am sure that the active participation of all races in the people’s struggle will smash the lies into pieces. Besides racism, violence is even more prominent among the police. Violence is the way they express their power. Within the walls of the lock-up, almost every individual was beaten in the process of arrest or interrogation. Forced confession is probably the only means of investigation for the police. With me, they were a bit more careful. Only on the first nite (i.e. Sunday about 1:00 am), a uniformed police officer, Syed Fadil, at Balai Stadium waved his (end-part) semiautomatic rifle over my head when I was being escorted to the vehicle.

Later the lock-up officers (Shamba, Latif, Mustafa and Zulkifli (?)) again tried to remind me of the violent culture with a rough introduction. To show his authority, Shamba forcibly stripped off my shirt and pants when he was imposing the so-called lock-up rule. The zip of my pant was torn in the process.

To be fair, a number of officers were relatively calm and peaceful, at least to me. Except one ‘Hashim’ who has a bad temper. He was very abusive towards new entries to the lock-up. A few immigrant detainees were very badly abused when they checked in. Last nite (23/11 Monday) (Day of Remand), I told hjm that one friend (from reformasi group) who has leg injury due to police punishment needed to be hospitalised. (as the magistrate agreed). He got angry, since I have challenged his authority. He ordered me to go back to my cell. He began to be abusive in his language and manner. So I too rebuke him in loud voice. As I walked back to my cell, I warned him that he was wrong in being very violent towards OKT. When I was in my cell, he rushed in and threatened to assault me. Fortunately his colleague calmed him down. He also sounded apologetic later. Actually I have no intention to challenge him. I just want to make a point that OKT/inmates have to be treated with some dignity.

Many OKT complained to me that they were really treated like animals. The attitude of the police is breeding more violence. The detention of many reformasi fighters is providing them a good education. Now people are aware that reformasi is not restricted to political change nor it is an abstract idea. Reformasi must include 3 crucial aspects: the institution of police, prisons and judiciary.

Our cases clearly shows that legal procedures and the rule of law were completely ignored. Until now, I am still unaware of which laws I have violated. This morning I asked the 4 SB officers who interviewed me (Subra, James, Zol and one I forgot).

"What have I done which is considered a threat to peace and order of this society?"

They were not able to answer directly. Actually Subra said what I did as NGO was not really a problem. They are only concerned with people who might cause riots. (Not too sure he referred to the police or so called ‘reformasi’). When I confronted them on whether they feel the country is on the brink of disorder, they said, "No, it is far from it!" Apparently these SB, differ from the view of Dr. M.! I suppose this is also an admission that police were over-reacting towards those peaceful weekend public gatherings.

Thus evidently there must be a reformasi of the police force. This is part of our program of ‘reformasi total’. No doubt, negative aspects of the police such as violence, unprofessionalism, corruption (e.g. RM 50 for a packet of cigarettes, a few roti canai; RM 100 per phone call; drug pushing) have to be eliminated. We also need positive measures such as improving the police salary, facilities, efficiency etc. (I hope police could support our ‘reformasi’ based on these!)

The lock-up conditions also need major overhaul. Although this is not my first time here and I am trying to adapt myself, the conditions are still atrocious. With the Ventalin, I survived the dust of the mouldy blanket at nite. But bugs and mosquitoes constantly keep me awake at nite. I am trying to get used to the food but clean water is a big problem. Our only access to drinking water is from the tap in the wash room. However what really disturbs me is still the culture of violence surrounding me in this lockup. The remand is like a mini ISA where detainees are constantly being threatened and treated with violence - from the 1st moment when they enter. I just can’t imagine how I can endure this. I am also constantly told of stories of beatings, torture....I feel like shouting loudly and endlessly "Stop! Stop! Stop! " (Actually I have just shouted to stop a Singh policeman who was beating up a new entry a moment ago - 4:30 a.m., 23/11)

As my blank space is coming to an end, I shall stop here. I will write more if I can smuggle new pieces of paper in the next days. Lastly please send my regards to my family and comrades who are concerned about me. I am fine and in good spirits.

Long live the people’s struggle

(signed)
Tian
5 a.m. morning, 25/11