Ex-top editor re-lives days in detention
James Wong Wing On
Jan 9, 06 12:49pm
The second part of the memoirs of former Utusan Melayu editor-in-chief Said Zahari will be published in Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and English.
It is believed that the publication will be launched by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur soon.
The first part, Dalam Ribuan Mimpi Gelisah: Memoir Said Zahari, was translated into two other languages in 2001, with the English title being Dark Clouds at Dawn.
Singapore-born Said, now 77, was among the longest detained political prisoners of the Lee Kuan Yew government.
On Feb 2, 1962, he was held under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance based on allegations that he was a communist and an agent of Indonesia. It was in the wake of a controversial strike he had organised among Utusan journalists against the takeover by Umno.
However, up to the time of his release in August 1979 at the age of 54, he was never charged or tried in a court of law. He spent a total of 17 years in detention - about a quarter of his life. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International declared him a 'prisoner of conscience'.
In the forthcoming publication, Said will formally call Lee (photo) an "Anglo-American pawn" (tali-barut Anglo-Amerika) and accuse him of acting on behalf of the "neo-colonial" political, economic and strategic interests of Britain and the United States in Southeast Asia during the Cold War.
Said will also tell his version of history of the anti-colonial struggles in Singapore and Peninsular Malaya as well as other parts of Southeast Asia, including Sarawak, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Details of detention
The 265-page memoirs detail his life and experiences while under detention, including being interrogated by the Special Branch and being held in solitary confinement.
He will relate the physical and psychological tortures inflicted on fellow detainees like Lim Chin Siong, and the mental illnesses that some suffered as a result of torture.
While under detention, Said learnt the Chinese language from fellow detainees who were once student leaders of the now defunct Nanyang University.
Said will also reveal that, over the past few years, he has visited several top leaders of the Communist Party of Malaya such as Abdullah CD, Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin, Suriani Abdullah (Eng Ming Ching) and Abu Samah Mohamad Kassim in southern Thailand to conduct his research into the historical background of Malaya and Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s.
He also had a long-standing intellectual relationship with the late Dr Alijah Gordon, an American who passionately supported the Palestinian cause of national liberation.
On the current situation in Malaysia, Said expresses strong empathy with former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim and calls him a "statesman". However, he is also critical of some aspects of Anwar's style of political workings since being released from prison in September 2004.
Said calls for a reconciliation between Mahathir and Anwar, well as for the abolition of the Internal Security Act which allows for indefinite detention without trial.
The author is best known for leading a three-month strike by journalists and other employees in 1961, at then independent Utusan Melayu in Kuala Lumpur. As its editor-in-chief, he was opposed to the takeover of the newspaper by Umno.
While Said was visiting the newspaper’s Singapore office, Malaysian premier Tunku Abdul Rahman declared him persona non grata and banned his re-entry into Malaya.
The order was revoked on May 26, 1989 by Mahathir and Said's family moved to Malaysia in 1994.
Two years later, Said was appointed a guest writer by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. In 2003, he was made a Resident Writer of official national security online publication Buletin Malaysia.
Books on ISA by Singaporean authors
To Catch A Tartar by Francis T. Seow
Published in 1994, copies of the book mysteriously disappeared from the shelves of Select Books at Tanglin Shopping Centre days after they arrived. It has never surfaced in any bookstore or library in Singapore since then.
To Be Free by Dr Chee Soon Juan
Apart from Select Books, no other bookstore in Singapore would dare carry this title. However, it is available for loan in most public libraries. The author has been prosecuted and fined for hawking the book on the streets.
Dark Clouds At Dawn by Said Zahari
Said Zahari launched his first book in 2001, alongside Comet In The Sky : Lim Chin Siong in History
Both titles are still available at Select Books.
Pak Said, as he is affectionately known in Malaysia, will launch The Long Nightmare : 17 Years in Lee Kuan Yew's Prison in Malaysia next month. Expect the book to meet the same fate as Francis Seow's To Catch A Tartar.