As a student I knew of the horrors of the Holocaust and other human tragedies, but merely as a distant thunder: The violation of human rights and crimes against humanity were only an abstract notion.
That was all fated to change with my arrest under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) of Malaysia, which allows for indefinite detention without trial. My crime? I had known Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister and finance minister of Malaysia, as a close personal friend for many years. We shared and strove for a vision of life firmly rooted in human dignity. We struggled for building an intellectual and political milieu for free expression. Together, we subscribed to the idea of economic prosperity, gender and racial equality and a civil society.
Alas, the Malaysian dictator, Mahathir, under the growing burden of corruption and cronyism, conspired to halt the march of freedom. In order to build his fraudulent case against Anwar, Mahathir himself ordered my arrest.
My kidnapping and detention by the infamous Malaysian Special Branch taught me how it feels to be forcibly separated from one’s wife and children. How it feels to be searched and seized, disallowed to make phone calls, handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped naked, driven in an animal cage, shaven bald, endlessly interrogated, humiliated, drugged, deprived of sleep, physically abused. What it’s like to be threatened, blackmailed, tormented by police lawyers, brutalized to make a totally false confession, hospitalized for a consequent heart ailment, and treated as a psychiatric patient with symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.