What started out as a regular night for a friend, whom I shall call Jack, and I, turned into something ugly. We and two dozen others were detained, handcuffed, jailed, degraded, stripped, extorted and shamed.
This is a story of corruption and police abuse.
It was a drug bust at a famous night club in Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur. An incident that all of us, later proved innocent by hospital chemical tests, will never forget.
The entry (Sept 24 - 10.30pm)
It was a great day, in fact, a great week, I was looking forward to this weekend. Nothing special, just a night out for a glass of wine and to Soda, a popular club in the area. Nothing could have forewarned me of the humiliation that awaited.
After the wine, we made our way to Soda. Some other friends were already there. We had a few more drinks, enjoyed the music and the company.
The raid (2am)
Came out from the washroom and there was a policeman on the microphone. It was a drug bust, he announced and nobody could leave until urine samples were taken and tested. Fine I thought. No problem, just quickly take my urine and get it tested so I could go out and grab something to eat.
Problem is, there were a few hundred of us in the club and they did the test 10 at a time. From the time of the raid, it would end up taking them more than two hours to check all of us.
My turn came and I did as instructed, urinated into the plastic container and handed it over for the 'on-the-spot' test. They dropped the container in the instant tester, left it in for about a minute. The result showed that I had tested positive for five of the six drugs on the list. I knew this was a mistake so naturally I remained calm.
I was then herded into a cordoned off area and had to wait till 7am for the police truck to pick us up. While waiting, we requested for a re-test but this was denied.
We were told that our urine samples were to be taken to a hospital laboratory for conclusive tests.
The pick up (7am)
After a long wait, the truck finally arrived at 7am. We were not told anything, we did not know what was going to happen. And when they did tell us, the policemen came out with different answers.
We got into the truck. It was degrading because we were law abiding citizens who had never done anything wrong, except probably speeding on the highway. And here we were, being herded into a police truck used for rounding up bad hats.
We were taken to the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters and made to sit on the floor until 11am. We were treated rudely, one policeman had even threatened to beat a fellow detainee. Mind you, we were all proved innocent in the end and these policemen in the narcotics department treated us like convicts and did not entertain any questions. We did not know our rights, we were not informed of our rights and the police took advantage of that.
We were later told to sign a document. When I tried to read the document, I was told off by a policeman. "No need to read the document," he said. "Just sign!" Still in disbelief over what was happening but confident that it will be settled by the afternoon, I signed.
Till this day, I do not know what I signed.
At 11am we were again herded back into the blue truck. I did not know where they were taking us.
Pudu Jail (11am)
The truck took us to Pudu jail, the disused facility, which once housed murderers, rapists and drug dealers. This building was not built to house people like us. Think of your saddest moment, where your heart sinks and your spirit dies, and you would be able to relate to how we felt.
Most of us were still in denial. We still thought that everything will be fine and that we will be out soon.
We were placed in the prison yard and made to sit in rows of three. We had not eaten or drank since last night, but we were not hungry. Then a policeman showed up, a good 'samaritan'. He offered us some bread and water and proceeded to collect RM10 from all of us. That would mean RM200 plus.
A few hours later we were put in handcuffs. Imagine being in a handcuff, chained together with all the others and led out into the street.
We were herded once again into a truck and brought before a magistrate.
The magistrate (1pm or so)
The magistrate was at the Cheras police station, we were told there that there was no chance for bail because it was a Sunday and the court was not open. I voiced my objection and requested for a re-test for obvious reasons. We were told that the magistrate was powerless to act on anything. All they did was read to us that we were suspected drug addicts and that we will be remanded for 12 days until a court date or bail was set. This was Monday at the earliest.
The entire proceeding was held while we were still in handcuffs and chained together. I was later told that when I left the room the lady magistrate had remarked, "All these rich kids, they are all like that".
Even the magistrate was blissfully ignorant of what was happening and had decided on our guilt before a trial.
The proceeding was over within an hour and we were once again herded into the blue police truck.
Back to jail (2pm - till the next day)
We are back in jail. Shortly after, we were called to sit on the prison pavement again to wait for our prison clothes. Names were called out individually. Each person was called into a room to collect our prison clothes. It was a simple process yet took a long time. I did not know why until some of the accused came out of the room.
While in the room, the police offered a cigarette in apparent goodwill. So some of them took the offer. With such frayed nerves, anything was welcomed to help take the pain away. After the accused took the cigarette, RM10 was taken out of their wallets. A robbery had taken place, and the robbers were the policemen, and they were walking free in jail.
They couldn't steal from me though. Simply because I had no cash. I had passed them to Jack's mother when she came earlier. So naturally they did not offer me a cigarette.
Prison clothes consisted of only a pair of track pants. Just a single piece. No shirt, no underwear and no shoes. We were to stay in prison with nothing else but a pair of pants.
When we made our way through the walkway into the main prison compound, we were in shock. All the prisons you have seen on TV were nothing compared to the horrid conditions of Pudu jail. Everybody in prison was frail thin and bony. The only fat people were the policemen. We were told to put our belongings into a cell and leave them there, we were then made to strip naked and squat in front of the other inmates. I had never done anything wrong in my life, why was I being treated this way?!! It was degrading. It angered me.
After that was out of the way, we were put six to a cell, measuring 2m by 3m. There were no beds, no toilet and no ventilation. Just concrete walls and a concrete platform. If you wanted to urinate, you had to do it in a bottle inside the cell.
It was now almost 6pm and all we had for three-quarter's of a day was a small piece of bread and a small bottle of mineral water. Food finally came. It was indescribable. A pack of rice with a salted fish head measuring no more than 4cm and two pieces of vegetable no larger than a 50 sen coin. It was just meant to keep you alive. Just barely alive.
We just sat there for the rest of our stay, being let out only to bathe and defecate three times a day for 10 minutes. Some took the situation harder than me. Somehow, the anger had numbed me. So I joked and we talked, just to diffuse the situation and to allow ourselves to forget this experience.
Then there was more daylight robbery and corruption. We were told that our relatives could visit and that they could bring food and other condiments and supplies to us... for a price! Yes they were asking for money even in jail. RM150 must be paid to them so the items could be brought in.
However, that does not guarantee that the items will reach us. I had friends whose relatives paid the police for the food to be brought in. A whole bucket of fried chicken was reduced to three pieces and a burger. Not only were the police corrupt, but they were sadistic and sick enough to eat the prisoners' food. Why they were all fat was no longer a mystery.
Not only did we have to bribe them for food, but a single phone call cost RM150, which must be paid by the visiting relative or friend. Jack got away with RM50, supposedly credited to the policeman's pre-paid line by his mother. Somehow the policeman missed it and even dared to SMS Jack's mother after we got out, asking 'where's the money'. Not only was it daylight robbery, it was daring and I guess he must have felt invincible while wearing the police badge.
Take note that none of our parents or relatives were informed that we were being held. We had to personally call them.
We spent the night in prison, sleeping on our bare backs on the cold damp concrete floor. The air was stale, there were other inmates yelling 'tolong..tolong' (help...help).
It was a dreadful and excruciatingly slow night. All we had was each other.
The courthouse (Sept 26 8am)
Morning came and a large group of our parents, relatives and friends were waiting at the court house to bail us out. Most of them reached there early and were informed that the bail documents would be out first thing in the morning.
The bail documents only came out at 11am. And everybody was told that they had to open a bank account, deposit the bail money and make it back to the court house with all the paperwork in order by 12pm. That was exactly one hour.
Everyone rushed to the bank, one single bank with only a few operational lines. The queue was long and processing took forever. According to my loved ones, it was the most stressing time of their lives. Because if they did not make it back to the court house by 12, then I would have to stay another night in jail.
A few ended up having to stay another night. Keep in mind that 22 of us were proven to be innocent by clinical tests. Yet some of these wrongly accused people had to spend three days and two nights in prison.
We put on our civilian clothes and were once again handcuffed. Once again, my heart died and my soul withered. We were brought to the court and I was sickened once again by the antics of the policemen.
We were in the van going by the heart of Kuala Lumpur when these two escorting policemen slid open the window and started whistling at a woman walking down the street. These were our policemen. I was sickened to the bone.
We all reached the courthouse and were led through the street still in handcuffs and in full view of the public and our loved ones. We were told by the court that we will be set free on bail. We were given some documents informing us where and when to collect the results of the hospital tests for our urine and when to show up in court again.
We were told to collect our blood tests results from the Brickfields police station on Oct 2.
I got out on Sept 26. I was driving past the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers that night and I felt that it did not mean anything anymore. I used to be proud to be Malaysian, the twin towers used to be a source of pride. But now, all my nationalistic pride was gone, I had just been treated like a criminal by my own country. A country which I loved used to love. I used to think that this country was beautiful. But now all I see is a country so currupted and dirty. No amount of washing will clean away this feeling.
The verdict (Oct 2)
It was time to collect our results. We showed up at the Brickfields police station where 22 of us were pronounced clean and had to make our way to the court house. I asked for documentation to state that we were clean. But the policemen said there was no documentation and that they would call the court house to inform them. No documentation in an advanced economy like ours, this was unacceptable.
Nevertheless, we all made our way to the court house and there, we were proclaimed innocent and free to go. Again, I asked for documentation to state that we were cleared of all charges and that we were free to go. But there was no documentation. No black and white. So technically, we had to trust the word of this court official, whose name or rank we did not know.
The anger (now till justice is served)
The 22 of us will never be the same again. Malaysia will never be the same again.
I was once a fun loving jovial person. Food no longer taste good, the sky seems perpetually cloudy and everybody I meet looks different.
My girlfriend had asked if this experience had changed me. I replied 'maybe'... and she cried.
The writer, who preferred to remain anonymous, is a working professional in Kuala Lumpur.