My 100 days in prison 

This is cruel, inhuman and a degrading treatment for a country. A nation is not judged by its skyscrapers but by how its prisoners are treated.

by P Uthayakumar

After a “very difficult” trial and having lost confidence, on June 5, 2013 from the dock of the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court before Judge Ahmad Zamzani Mohd Zain, I had made my stand that in protest against the circumstances of the court proceedings and in protest against Umno’s institutional racist policies victimising the Indian poor, I decided not to continue with my defence (after two days), calling of any of my (scores of) witnesses, nor will I close my case submit or mitigate or apply for a stay of execution pending an appeal to the High Court. My four (4) applications to recuse this judge was dismissed by the very same judge, almost all of documents criticising the government were rejected as evidence.

The Sedition charge dated Dec 11, 2007 overlaps with my nine ISA charges dated Dec 13, 2007 (seven directly) and therefore amounts to double jeopardy, ie punishment twice for the same offence.

The vindictiveness of the Umno government shows even after I was officially invited but had refused to meet Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in the ‘eve’ of the 13th general election. If I had done so and had put my personal interest above the Indian poor, I would have also been a minister, if not a deputy minister, like a certain sacked Hindraf leader who had betrayed the cause and the Indian poor.

In the first three weeks, I was put in a less harsh hospital wing as I am a diabetic, frequently in need of insulin injection. My daily routine was after the 7am roll call, I will take a half an hour brisk walk at the adjoining field. Then I will bathe, have my breakfast and sit cross legged to do my reading while enjoying the morning fresh air.

When the weather gets hotter, I go inside the ward, sit under the fan and continue with my reading and writing. At 5pm I again go for my half hour brisk walk and rest at the open field, staring at the sky and enjoying the last few minutes of fresh air for the day. The ward gets locked up at 6pm. Thereafter I have my evening bathe, I have dinner at the hospital bed and continue with my writing.

The prison authorities watched my every move and probably felt that I was not suffering my jail time enough. So they decided to throw me into the harsh jail conditions at the notorious Block K (AB,) which is controlled by a group of young Malay gangsters.

They shout and are always rude. They mistreat their fellow inmates for the smallest things, by making prisoners sit under the hot sun for hours etc. punishing and ‘disciplining’ prisoners for even talking among themselves. At times, prisoners are forced to sit on the ground head down and hands clutched to the knees for hours under the hot sun, like the Nazi era war criminals and watched silently by the prison wardens.

The prison warden’s job is made easy by this ‘outsourcing’. In return, these gangsters, masquerading as trainers (jurulatih), reign supreme in prison by extorting from prisoners some of the monthly groceries their loved ones buy for them, right under the eyes of prison wardens and officers. These gangsters also get to stay out beyond the lock-up rules of 6pm and enjoy ‘perks’ like watching television and getting free massage in the cells from other prisoners.

On Aug 2, 2013, a prisoner was brought right in front of me and was beaten up with a three feet long and one inch thick cane for having two blankets, the second one used as a pillow (pillows are denied in prison unlike in Kamunting Prison).

This was a message to me for complaining to my family and lawyers. Prisoners, on entering Kajang Prison, were denied tooth brush, tooth paste, soap and washing soap, pail and dipper, towel etc. The prison wardens tell them to ‘pandai-pandai’ , which means, beg from the other prisoners. In my cell, I am forced to sit on the floor and lean against the wall and sleep on the cold cement floor on a one inch thin foam mattress for over 23 hours a day, literally under solitary confinement.

Despite having no authority, prisoners are caned and beaten up almost daily for not wearing shirts, talking and etc. Except for the 7am morning roll call and lunch time, I am forced to remain in my 12’ x 12’ feet cell as I am detained among 506 other violent criminals like murderers and armed robbers.

Despite my ailment, my diet still consists of rice porridge or sweet bread for breakfast, rice for lunch and sweet bread and sweet sambal or gravy for dinner. I am also now denied the right to exercise. In effect, my diabetes got worse. My notes to my lawyers and medical notes have been confiscated.

In the first full month at Blok K (AB), and despite my repeated requests for a chair because of my prolapsed disk conditions were denied. This came even after having given to the prison hospital three Specialist Medical Reports including two (2) MRI reports the chair. My leg got swollen and both legs became numb. Only after telling the prisons authorities that I risk being paralysed did they take me to a hospital.

And after seeing four different doctors in that month and persistently complaining of severe pain was I finally given a chair. But on the the fourth visit, despite showing prison officers my swollen leg, the prison doctor had refused to send me to the Kajang General Hospital. He told me that he has no powers to do so and that only the Prison Director is empowered to do so even when it is a medical problem.

When I complained to my wife, they had the audacity to warn me against it as my weekly telephone calls are recorded and it would thereafter be withdrawn, monthly family visits denied and that I would be put in the dark room in full solitary confinement.

The prison authorities also denied my follow-up treatment at Hospital University Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM) on Aug 1, 2013 to see my consultant neurosurgeon despite my lawyers having written to them.

Death in custody

Once, the clogged up drain in the bathroom caused me to accidentally slip and fall, causing me to fracture my right index finger. When I complained to the duty ASP that what would have happened if I had hit my head and something had happened to me, his reply was merely there would be “no more problems after that” (as I would have died). When I had related this reply to three Senior Prison Superintendents, they too laughed as if it was a common “prison joke”.

It has been two months now. I still cannot brush my teeth using my right index finger as it is still painful. Request for an X-Ray was denied. My present cell is infested with mosquitoes. Despite numerous complaints, no fogging was done. Up to 30 Hindraf supporters used to visit my cell in day but now they are stopped form even talking to me. Some prisoners are even punished for speaking to me. I am not even allowed to exercise in a safe place.

Apart from me, there are others who are also receiving cruel treatment from the prisons authority. Mohana Sundram (32) was given seven strokes of the cane for CBT and within over one week became paralysed waist downwards. Amin Rashid (55) became paralysed in prison because of a viral attack. Selvagunalan became blind in prison because of severe diabetes and Baharuddin having served 30 years full life sentence was forced to serve another two (2) years (but sentenced in 1992) for escaping from prison.