“I felt that my detention had been arranged in such a way that God was trying to use my innocence to educate the public on politics,” says Teresa Kok. She was arrested on 12 September 2008 at about 11.00pm, becoming the first female Malaysian MP detained under ISA.
After you were released on Friday afternoon (19 September), you had to rush through three dinners. Didn’t you feel tired? Was it because the detention has made you treasure every single minute and second?
A: When I was in there, I really felt that my time was wasted. The government had no reason at all to arrest me under ISA. When my family, assistant and lawyer came to visit me, they told me many people out there were giving me their moral support. The church also prayed for me. I felt I was not alone.
After my release, Janice Lee Ying Ha (Teratai state assemblywoman – DAP) insisted that I go to the mosque in Ampang (to attend a prayer meeting). Tan Kok Wai insisted that I attend a dinner, while the Fui Chew Hakka Association wanted me to attend a Mid-Autumn festival dinner. All these events had been planned earlier to lend moral support to me. Now that I’m released, of course I have to go.
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As a matter of fact, there are plenty of things waiting for me to do, such as my constituency. I feel that I have a duty to attend those events. Other than giving speeches, I also thanked them personally. No matter how tired I was, I still had to go.
Did you rush home immediately after your release?
No. I didn’t have time to go home to bathe. Many people asked me why I was wearing the same thing when I just came out from detention, at the press conference and at the dinner. Many thought I had no clothes to change!
Could you describe your feelings now as “furious”? I learned that in your first speech at the Hakka Association, you were already cursing the government.
That’s right. They had no reasons of any sort to put me under arrest, and all their accusations were baseless. The moment I was arrested, I knew very well I was innocent, but they still insisted to lock me up for seven days. That’s way too much!
What were you thinking of in the lock-up?
Nothing for me to read on the first two days, so I could only quieten down and pray. I was also thinking of what happened during the past one day, all the things I had done, including the investment seminar. I was just thinking of all these.
Did you ever think: “What on earth have I done wrong? Why has this happened to me?”
Indeed, I was thinking all the time, but couldn’t get an answer. It was totally absurd for them to put me in the lock-up.
Did you feel angry and agitated?
Not angry nor agitated, but that I had to prepare myself for the future. When I was inside, I did warn the investigating officer: to detain an innocent person will only hurt BN’s credentials and the market will surely drop.
My predictions have been proven right. Perhaps you can argue that the US market was to blame for the sharp falls, but this incident definitely had some impact on the local bourse.
(Teresa later said she even told the investigating officer that she was sleeping and eating well, and would take care of herself properly. She said if Pakatan Rakyat successfully seizes power, she would then become their boss! She said the officers were dumbfounded after hearing this.)
Can you tell us what you did on the first day after your arrest? How did you know the time?
I knew when it was daybreak, for the mosque nearby would sound the call for prayers. After seeing that I was awake, the officer would bring in water and bread. They would come every 15 minutes to check whether I was still alive.
In short, I felt like I was a pig held up in a pen. When the time has come, they would bring me water and bread. I scolded them, and asked them what they were treating me as.
The toothbrush I used was only half as long as the normal ones. I had one little handkerchief, no belt for my pants, not even a piece of paper or pen. In other words, anything that could have been dangerous was not available to me for they were scared I would kill myself.
You scolded them every time they came to see you?
Not really. I wouldn’t flare my temper at those low-ranking officers. They were only doing their job as instructed. I could only grumble at them, telling them this government is useless and must be changed. I was educating them in some way!
Can you tell us again your “programme” for a typical day in the lock-up?
After I woke up in the morning, the investigating officer would meet me at 9.30. If he didn’t come, then no one would talk to me that day, and I would be bored to death. On my request, they gave me a Bible.
Did you feel scared?
No. I only felt that my time had been wasted, especially when we were busily preparing for a trade visit to Taiwan. The most disgusting thing was that they sent me back to my cell as early as five in the evening – until I was told to see the investigating officer the following morning. It was damn hot inside the cell.
How long did they normally interrogate you?
They only had something to ask on the first two days; after that nothing to ask, only chatting. However, they were very careful while talking to me. I asked them what the media said about me, and they just kept quiet.
They blindfolded me before lunch and sent me back to my cell; then lunch was served. The food was horrible, only one dish. On the first day I still could get a fried egg and some vege, but then it got worse the following days.
What did you do between lunch and dinner?
The investigating officer would summon me again after lunch, and I spent my seven days there with these officers. What a waste of human resources. I later complained to them that I could not go on this way without doing any exercises. They were kind enough to let me stretch my body in a tiny, enclosed badminton court.
How did you know where you were when blindfolded?
I was told to put on a very large pair of sunglasses. But when I looked up or down, I could still see the buildings outside. The more they blindfolded me, the more I wanted to see.
I was born in KL, and raised at Jalan Ipoh. The place they brought me to would have to pass through Jalan Ipoh or Sentul. Of course I knew the place. I told that guy I knew where I was, but I wouldn’t go there to see him.
Before you joined politics, you must have heard that DAP leaders like Lim Kit Siang and Tan Seng Giaw had all been put under ISA detention before. Have you ever thought of yourself being arrested one day?
I was psychologically prepared for it, but I have also been trying very hard not to say anything wrong, because I don’t want to end up in the jail.
Nowadays we can’t use detention any more to lure people to join politics. I want to tell people, politics is something very “cool” and fun. We’re not going to use our detention to prove that we have made great sacrifices. This tactic no longer works today.
I don’t want to go to jail. You know sometimes when I voice up something which could be sensitive, especially on the Home Ministry, police and corruption, I usually choose to raise the issues in the Dewan Rakyat. I won’t talk in a press conference.
Even for the “stand-squat” incident involving the Chinese women, we first filed a police report and consulted our lawyers before doing anything. In short, I tried to (avoid) getting into trouble.
Will this arrest affect the way you do things in the future?
Not much. Even if we go to jail, we have to make sure it is not in vain. We can’t go to jail just because we have said something we shouldn’t have said.
To be frank, I felt downcast on the first two days, but after seeing my parents, who told me many people out there were giving me their support, I began to change my attitude.
If my detention can raise the people’s awareness of the ISA as well as (direct) their fury towards the BN government, then I feel it’s not in vain, and I won’t feel so frustrated anymore.
I was also thinking of the judgment Jesus had to go through. Even though He was crucified on the cross, He has been remembered by people through the ages. I felt that my detention had been arranged in such a way that Jesus was trying to use my innocence to educate the public on politics.
You said you were feeling down during the first two days?
Yes, very anxious too because I still had plenty of things to do. We were in the midst of making preparations for a trade visit to Taiwan. There’re so many things I have to do to make sure the mission is moving smoothly. I didn’t know for how long more I would stay inside there. I was really very anxious; so I kept asking the officers.
How did you feel or react when told that you could be locked up for another 28 days?
I was even more “fired up”. I had been very cooperative since the beginning. I tried to be nice to them, and they had actually finished what they wanted to ask. When they told me on Sunday that I could be held up for another 28 days, I was overwhelmed with anger, and scolded them “ini dosa” (it’s sinful). They kept quiet. My purpose was to get them to relay the message to their boss.
What do you think is the difference between you and your DAP seniors who were once put under ISA detention?
When Lim Kit Siang was arrested, they specified where and when he said what or did anything. But this time, I was arrested without any solid evidence; yet they said I had committed the same crime.
Will this incident make you even more careful when handling certain issues in the future? You said Home Minister Syed Hamid should be fired. Are you not afraid?
Not at all. I’ve gone to jail before. What else should I be afraid of? Go ahead and sue me!
I’m not someone looking for trouble and won’t do such things especially after Selangor has come under us. They are so many things I have tried to avoid, yet they still (come up with these) accusations against us.
Could you describe your experience during those seven days in just one sentence?
I think it was a trial for me, to test my patience. You need a lot of patience in there while being totally cut off from the outside world.
I’m the organising secretary for DAP, senior executive councillor for Selangor, the MP and state assemblywoman for my constituencies. I have too many things to do. I know I couldn’t rush through all these. I had to learn to cool down.
Some reporters asked me whether I cried. The question is I couldn’t afford to fall off inside there. I couldn’t crack under pressure before those officers, or my political rivals would triumph.
What inspiration have you drawn from the detention?
Other than being a trial, it made me tougher and more determined. With so many people behind me showing me their support, I should be even stronger. This is what I got during those seven days.
Will your aged parents stop you from going into politics after this incident?
Too late! They told me I would get caught one day because of ISA when I first joined DAP (working at DAP headquarters after graduation). I said I wouldn’t be so honoured. Ha!
After this incident, you have been portrayed as the DAP’s “heroine.” What do you say?
I could only say I was more of a victim. Anyway, we must thank all the civil organisations for holding those events to show their support for me. If I’m really a heroine, I must then thank Khir (former Selangor MB), the BN government and the Royal Malaysian Police for that…
For those who have smeared you, do you have anything to tell them?
I’m not going to let them off for sure!
(Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Guang Ming Daily)
Teresa Kok is a Selangor state executive councillor
Source: MySinchew 2008.09.22