ORDEAL OVER BUT ISA LURKS FOR NEXT VICTIM
For more than seven years, her husband had to be confined to an empty and dark room. And for those 2,670 nights, he had missed the absence of the stars in the sky.
Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today, Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Mat Sah Mohd Satray’s wife Norlaila Othman said, “this showed how draconian the Act is as it imprisoned my husband through those long and lonely nights for seven whole years”.
“Also, when he first got home, he saw that our only son (Suhaib Mat Sah) has grown. He felt as if it happened so suddenly because the last time he met him, our son was only 8 years old.
“But I told him, ‘no it is not suddenly’, you have been gone for seven years. And this made him cry”, said 44-year-old Norlaila, holding back her tears.
Mat Sah, who was held for seven years and five months were among five detainees released, last Tuesday, with conditions by Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
He was put under the security act for being allegedly involved with the Muslim terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiah.
Norlaila, who appeared calm and composed, said that her husband had been waiting to be released each time Hari Raya was around the corner but it never materialised, until this year.
She, however, regretted for not welcoming Mat Sah home for the first time in seven years as she was away in Sandakan, Sabah on that fateful day.
“I never expected that he would be released last Tuesday. If I knew, I would not have gone to Sabah. I would be at home, all beautifully dressed up and smelling nice with my finest perfume, waiting for him in front of the house”, she said with a smile.
Don’t say thanks to the government
Upon his release last Tuesday, Norlaila said the mainstream press had descended in front of her house to interview her husband. She had no problems with it, except for one thing.
“I told him not to say thanks to the government because I can still feel the pain raising my child for seven years on my own and how I struggled telling everyone that he had been detained without trial.
“Don’t say thanks to the government. Thanking Allah is good enough”, said Norlaila, adding that the press had asked him to ‘act happy’ in front of the camera.
“For me they wanted to show that my husband is thanking the government for releasing him before Hari Raya”, said Norlaila, who is an active committee member of the Abolish ISA movement (GMI) since her husband’s detention.
“And I think it is wrong for the home minister to say he was released because my husband had repented. I believe he was freed because of the pressure from the people”, she said, referring to the Aug 1 anti-ISA mammoth rally.
Now that Mat Sah has been released this will not stop Norlaila, who is a teacher, from continuing her involvement in the movement.
“My contract with GMI will expire this December and since he has no job, I would have to support the family. But my schedule will change when I go back to teaching next year”, she said while admitting that it is however more important to readjust her family’s life.
“It is quite different now that he is back. I’m so not used to having a man in the house. It feels like he is a stranger”, said Norlaila, with a laugh.
Will take legal action against government
Based on advice from her lawyers, Norlaila said that she would initiate legal action against the government for her husband’s ‘unlawful detention’.
“We would also do something about the restrictions imposed on Mat Sah because it affects us as a family”, she said, explaining that her husband is now put under the Restricted Residence Act.
“Whenever he wants to get out of our residence (Ulu Klang)’s area, he needs to report to the police. This restricts his freedom as he can’t also find a job.
“People say he is free, but his movement is restricted. I think I feel more stressed now than before”, she said.
The conditions imposed on Mat Sah amongst others, revealed Norlaila, include being at home from 9pm to 6am, cannot be actively involved in politics, disbarred from campaigning in an election and cannot get out of the district.
He is also required to report to the nearest police station every week.
GMI will keep fighting for ISA repeal
Although five have been released from ISA nine other detainees still remain in detention. GMI president Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, said the movement’s struggle will not end here.
“We feel very happy now that our fight against the ISA has resulted in this achievement. But we will not stop fighting until the ISA is totally repealed”, said Syed Noh at the same press conference.
“Besides a huge impact on the detainees would include having to rebuild their lives and clear their names. For GMI, we have not finished our struggle”, he added.
For two-time former ISA detainee, Saari Sungib, he feels that Norlaila needs a lot of adjustments in her life now that her husband is back in her arms.
“Your life has drastically changed, and focusing on your family is more important. I had a hard time getting back on my feet after I was freed from the ISA”, said the Ulu Klang state representative.
The press conference was also attended by GMI secretary E Nalini, human rights lawyer Edmund Bon and PKR national leadership council member Animah Ferrer.