The truth behind the release of the 13 ISA detainees

The Indians are not that gullible and naïve. Why release the two ‘harmless’ ones who had repented anyway? Why not release the other three ‘hardcore’ HINDRAF leaders — in particular the extremely stubborn and most uncooperative head honcho?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Reading is a form of escapism. When you are reading, and if you are engrossed enough in the book you are reading — the Malays call it kushuk — you can transport yourself to somewhere you are not. And that was how I spent my time while in solitary confinement in the Kamunting Detention Centre. I read and read and read.

My wife arranged to send me loads of books when she visited me every week. If the book were about 200 pages or so I would finish it in a day. The thickest book I read was 1,400-pages and it took me about a week to finish. That was how I escaped from Kamunting. I transported myself into another world by shutting myself out from the miserable world that I was stuck in, the world of solitary confinement.

It was during one of these ‘escapes’ that I noticed a minor brouhaha had erupted outside my cell. One of the guards was on the phone and was summoning ‘reinforcements’. He wanted someone to relief him so that he could go to the next block.

My curiosity got the better of me and I put my book down to step outside and investigate what the commotion was all about. Three Internal Security Act detainees were in the midst of being released that morning, I was told. Who are they? The guards mentioned their names but I did not know them from Adam. After all, you do not quite have a social life when under solitary confinement and I had yet to make many friends from amongst the 60 or so detainees.

Hari Raya was around the corner and these were three of the lucky ones who would be going home to join their families for Hari Raya. Maybe ten more or so will also be released around Hari Raya, the guards told me. I sighed. These people who are due for release had been under detention for up to eight years. I was barely two months in custody. I never dreamt I would be one of those lucky ones who would be going home for Hari Raya.

But the ten or so never got released for Hari Raya. Even the guards were puzzled. These people had already been slotted for release. Why were they not released? It did not occur to everyone, then, that they would be released, but they would only be released after Najib Tun Razak takes over as Prime Minister. This was so that Najib would be seen as spearheading reforms and the first ‘reform’ would be to release a few Internal Security Act detainees who had spent many years under detention.

“Would the HINDRAF 5 also be released?” I inquisitively asked the guards. Maybe two, they told me, but certainly not all five. Hmmm….why is that? Well, the guards told me, the HINDRAF 5 is no longer five. They are split into three. There are two in one group, another two in another, and the head honcho is all by himself and does not talk to the others. In fact, he has requested to be shifted to another block and no longer shares the same block with the other four.

What happened? I am one inquisitive creature. They have quarrelled, the guards told me. Two are in one gang, the other two in another, and the gang leader is separated from the rest. The head honcho is very ‘difficult’. He does not get along with anyone. Two more are also quite stubborn and continue to resist. But two are quite alright. They are very cooperative and regret getting involved with HINDRAF. In fact, they blame the head honcho for their predicament and this is one of the reasons they have split up.

So these two have a good chance of being released, I said to the guards. Yes, these two are actually no problem. In fact, we have recommended they be released. It is also good we release two of them and retain the other three under detention. This would cause HINDRAF to break up because some of the leaders would be seen as having sold out. Mereka akan berpecah kalau separuh bebas dan separuh lagi masih ditahan.

So, the 13 Internal Security Act detainees being released recently was no surprise. This was discussed as far back as October last year. In fact, they were supposed to have been released around September or October last year. For that matter, their release is already quite overdue and the delay was so that Najib, and not Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, could release them. And throwing the two HINDRAF leaders in for good measure was also a brilliant strategy. After all, they had already reformed and regretted their actions. And, as a bonus, this will create further friction amongst the HINDRAF leadership if two got released while the other three continue their detention.

The release of the two HINDRAF leaders did not, however, help swing the Indians back to Barisan Nasional in yesterday’s by-elections. The Indians are not that gullible and naïve. Why release the two ‘harmless’ ones who had repented anyway? Why not release the other three ‘hardcore’ HINDRAF leaders — in particular the extremely stubborn and most uncooperative head honcho? If the government is serious about reforms, and if Najib is really that agent of change, release all five HINDRAF leaders. Don’t just release the two, who no longer have teeth, as a token gesture.

Well, that is as far as the story of the release of the 13 Internal Security Act detainees is concerned. I am sure you want to hear more, especially about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s plans for Umno and Najib. That story will have to wait for another time. But we shall certainly continue this series of storytelling — so stay tuned for more.

Till later, take care.