18 hours under ISA

This is the first hand account of Ms Tan Hoon Cheng about her 18 hours under ISA detention. This is translated and posted in Malaysiakini, from the original version in Sin Chew Daily.

“My 18 hours under the ISA”

first person On Sept 12 about 8.30pm, I was at home in Bukit Mertajam in Penang. While enjoying myyew char koay’ (fried dough stick), I was worrying about the show-cause letter issued to Sin Chew Daily, and anxious about the days ahead for my newspaper.

Suddenly, a group of plainclothes police officers appeared at my front gate. The person who started to identify the group and the purpose of this visit was a woman officer. She was also the only one in uniform.


Speaking from the other side of the gate, she told me that I had to follow them to the police station. I replied that unless they had a warrant of arrest, I would not open the gate. At the same time, I rang my company’s legal adviser and my superior, seeking their advice.

Later, the female officer told me that they are arresting me under Internal Security Act, therefore a warrant is not required. On hearing that, I was immediately prepared for the worst.

penang anti isa candle light vigil 150908 01I had to act calm, comforting my parents and reassuring them that my colleagues would be waiting for me at the police station to render assistance. When I was taken away, my parents reacted strongly, asking the police to accord me proper treatment.

I was taken to the Seberang Perai Tengah police district office where I was placed in a chilly room while waiting for the police to begin their paperwork. I was accompanied by a female officer who seemed to be trembling as a result of the low room temperature as well.

To break the silence, I initiated a conversation. She told me, “You seem to be very calm.”

I told her: “I am arrested under the ISA. Even though I’m scared, I have to face this reality. But I’m worried about my parents, friends and relatives, they must be very worried about me.”

To be frank, I was very cool-headed. I believed that there must be a lot of people out there supporting me, giving me the strength that I need, so I must stay strong to be with these people who are supporting me.

The police recorded all my personal belongings, which were later taken from me. After that, I was considered ready to be sent to the Police Contingent Headquarters in Penang.

When I was taken out of the police station, I realised that a lot of my colleagues in the media, together with representatives from different parties and groups were already waiting outside to show support. Seeing this, I was deeply touched, I could no longer hold back my tears.

When the police car arrived at the station entrance, my superior and northern region manager Puah Eu Peng tried to stop the car with his body to slow it down. He knocked on the window to make sure that I was in the car and gestured to show me his support.

I instantly wiped away my tears. I realised that a lot of people (were) with me (and that) I must be with them as well.

After taking my thumb-print, I was given dinner and spent my night in remand. I did not know then that my colleagues in the profession and people from different groups and parties were there to show their support, right outside that station.

I requested the female officer to keep the lights on. She told me not to worry, she would not switch off the lights. The police also informed me that I would meet my parents the next day at eight.

I spent a very long time, thinking of everything that I would have to tell my parents. I had lost touch with the outside world (and) this would be my only opportunity, I must cherish it, to clearly explain everything to my parents.

After clearing my mind and organising my thoughts, I tried to sleep on the wooden bed with the company of the mosquitoes and the noise of dripping water. I had no idea what tomorrow held for me, but I knew I had to be in perfect condition to handle everything.

I have never suffered from insomnia and this very night, I finally experienced it. Deep down in my heart, I know that those who care about me would also be experiencing the same. My heart wrenched thinking of that.

‘Continue being brave’

At 6am, when I was about to wash up, the female officer passed me clothing brought by my parents. I was surprised; everything was new, the toiletries, T-shirts, shorts and underwear.

candle light vigil at penang ipk 120908 signature.jpgI later discovered that the ‘parents’ that the police officer was referring to were a bunch of my colleagues. While waiting outside the police contingent headquarters, they prepared all these for me.

They were uncertain when I would be released, but they told themselves that they must get these items ready in the briefest time possible.

I met my parents and bade them goodbye. The police informed me that they would take me to the police headquarters in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur. My heart sank, I told myself this was the beginning of it, I must brace myself for everything.

After a few turns of event, I was eventually taken to the Perak police headquarters in Ipoh. After a brief interrogation session, I was taken back to the Penang headquarters.

It was here, where I was interrogated further. I told myself to keep my mind clear, to tell them the truth, and respond appropriately.

After the interrogation session, I was taken to see another higher-ranking officer who told me: “We can both go home now!”

Both of us turned to the clock on the wall, the time was 2.25pm. During my 18 hours under the ISA, I had gone through a lot.

tan hoon cheng 04 120908After being released, I received a lot of messages, telephone calls and bouquets. My colleagues in the press, representatives of political parties, society leaders, schoolmates, classmates, friends and relatives have visited me at home – not forgetting the readers and the public who called up or visited Sin Chew Daily’s office in Penang and the head office in Petaling Jaya.

Calls, messages, good wishes and visits from readers and friends. For all of these, I have to express my deepest gratitude.

During those 18 hours filled with a lot of uncertainties, I felt that some unknown strength supported me throughout. I knew it must be from you all, those whom I know and (those whom I) have not met!

I realise that our journey is still filled with challenges and obstacles, so we have to continue the same righteous spirit and courage that we have all shown this time. Our society needs this spirit, to build a better tomorrow.

I have finally been freed, but I hope (Seputeh MP) Teresa Kok and (blogger) Raja Petra Kamarudin and all ISA detainees will be released as soon as possible.

If the authorities think that they have broken the law, they should be taken to court for a transparent and fair trial.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. monsterball
    Sep 15, 2008 @ 20:29:39

    What a terrified experience for a young lady…a newspaper reporter..under ISA.
    Yes prayers and friends gave her courage and strength.
    What a wonderful bunch of staff members….supporting her all the way.
    Forget the ridiculous reasons for her arrest.
    She is safe.
    Now lets pray and hope RPK and Teresa Kok will be released soon.


  2. Dr Hsu
    Sep 15, 2008 @ 22:23:47

    readers, live in kelanajaya, please go to this link:



  3. Bert
    Sep 15, 2008 @ 22:25:31

    So glad to learn that you are safe and well. Your fortitude under such difficult times is admirable. Your gratitude for the support you receive is humbling. Reminds me of what I read just today…

    Being able to do what is troublesome
    -is true action.
    Being able to bear the unbearable
    -is true forbearance.
    Being able to practise the difficult
    -is true cultivation.
    Being able to take what is unpleasant
    -is true endurance……

    To all the our champions of freedom and change I dedicate this song….

    The Impossible Dream

    To dream the impossible dream,
    to fight the unbeatable foe,
    to bear with unbearable sorrow,
    to run where the brave dare not go…

    To right the unrightable wrong,
    to love pure and chaste from afar,
    to try when your arms are too weary
    to reach the unreachable star!

    This is my quest —
    to follow that star
    no matter how hopeless,
    no matter how far —
    To fight for the right
    without question or pause,
    to be willing to march into hell
    for a heavenly cause!

    And I know
    if I’ll only be true
    to this glorious quest
    that my heart
    will be peaceful and calm
    when I’m laid to my rest.

    And the world will be better for this
    that one man, scorned and
    covered with scars,
    still strove with his
    last ounce of courage
    To reach the unreachable stars!

    Man of La Mancha

    May you all be well and happy….


  4. Justin Choo
    Sep 15, 2008 @ 23:40:47

  5. Justin Choo
    Sep 15, 2008 @ 23:41:49

    Dr my link rejected again.

    Comments from Theresa Kok’s mother in my blog.


  6. jeff
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 01:37:18

    Seem like our beloved country is moving toward a police state, when a citizen can be detained without a councilor present during questioning, without giving the right to know length of detention, without regard to due process of law and innocent until proven guilty basic judicial prudence doctrine. BN is adopting totalitarian country system of injustice in Malaysia now.


  7. jeff
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 06:33:52

    ISA webmaster n reporter is to intimidate media and any Malaysian who try to expose umnoputra seditious speech and racist politic, now no one is dared to question “ketuanan Melayu” now..


  8. Peter Yew
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:10:17

    Why am I not surprised reading Ms Tan Cheng Hoon’s account of her detention under ISA? Even the experience of YB Teresa Kok is no different. Those taken in under ISA are deemed criminals under the eyes of the Home Minister and not accounted any respect. It is as if they are already guilty and sentenced. This is how I feel Malaysians are being subjected to: no respect for lives and dignity, including Malaysians living or traveling abroad. Until we reach the stage that we learn to respect human lives and accord each other their basic rights can we consider ourselves a developing nation.

    The use of ISA on civilians is as good as catching stray dogs and putting them into the pounds. If the Home Minister has any conscience please release all ISA detainees now or face the wrath of your inhuman decisions.


  9. Peter Yew
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:12:22

    Point of clarification: ISA detainees are not likened to stray dogs but the action by the police and Home Minister is inhuman and must be condemned.


  10. Justin Choo
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:05:45

    Dr Hsu,
    Our country’s politics has gone into global in blogosphere. I think my link will be rejected again, so I just type the blog’s name.


    Doc, pls despam my next comment with the link.


  11. Justin Choo
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:06:14

    Dr Hsu,
    Our country’s politics has gone into global in blogosphere. I think my link will be rejected again, so I just type the blog’s name.




  12. humbleforest
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:45:06

    The same race is fighting among themselves and the blame is putting on other races, what a shame and irresponsibility for those in power.
    It is just like a fool is leading a fool in a land of fools. Fools can’t recognize fools because all are fools. But there are the wise who have escaped from the fools’ paradise.
    Please do not be the “wise” blind to guide the blinds to a field of landmines.
    Histories had and have witnessed the fall of the greatest empires and world dictators.
    Only true love, non-discrimination
    and unselfishness heart in empathy with the various races can bring true peace and stability of a country.


  13. humbleforest
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:52:38

    World Leaders
    Leaders of the world are blessed by Heaven with good merits, to govern over their citizens in good faith and full responsibility, of sincerity and trust for the people to live peacefully and harmoniously., They must not abuse or misuse their powers to threaten or create fears and problems to their subjects or to concentrate for their own personal benefits.. They are elected or selected to be honest and have full responsibility to govern their respective countries in true justice in acting as trustees on behalf of their loyal and innocent citizens. The coffers of the financial gain of the country is to be distributed fairly to the citizens, and not for their personal or bias party group interests. They will also be subjected to great sins if they rule unjustly and prejudicially., The world may not be able to judge powerful leaders justly, but eventually all will be brought to justice by their own natural law of retributions (karma). No one can evade from one’s own retribution no matter rich or poor, noble or ignoble, powerful, in “supernatural or in magic” or otherwise. Repent immediately if one self-realizes, otherwise it is too late to regret. Time passes without a pity.

    The weak earthlings of this planet Earth are…
    There are people who are power greedy.
    * There are people who are position crazy.
    * There are people who are wealth hungry.
    * There are pretenders who are holding the majority.
    * There are perverters who are fact-twisting.
    * There are instigators who are causing segregation.
    * There are atheists who are misconstruing the “ Universal Truth “
    * There are puppets on a string.
    These people are possessive and pathetic and who
    practise partiality and prejudices.
    Modern man seems to apply his selfishness, egoism, greed, power and fame to anything he handles.
    One man cannot trust another although they live together. They live with suspicious, doubts and fantasies.
    Even in this world today, it is difficult to see what is in a man’s mind. He pretends to be cultured, civilized, educated, noble and religious.
    A man of true moral-cultivation, without pretence fears not. He sees all in brotherhood.

    A good person sees bad and knows it’s bad, and avoids,
    A bad person sees good and knows it’s good, but reluctant to repent and correct.
    A confused person can’t even see good or bad and is in suspense, drunk or blind
    The world today is upside down.
    Making oneself a fool and a clown. Confucius came into this world with his virtuous morals to help those who are ignorant and confused.
    There are many leaders who are hiding behind “Peace” to create wars. They are misleading their loyal innocent citizens to harbour hatreds and creating enmities. Peace will never prevail if weapons of wars are produced and sold in the name of defence.
    With justice to all.


  14. Scott Thong
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 15:26:25

    Ahmad Ismail, grandchild of pendatang from India, is posterized here: Pendatang


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: