WHEN Norlaila Othman, who had been living without her husband for over seven years, received a phone call at 5.45pm yesterday, she had no idea who could be on the other end.
A ‘dream’ for freed JI suspect’s wife
“It was my husband calling to say that he was outside our house with a policeman. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it.
“It was more than a surprise, it was like a dream. There had never been any prior news or indication by the authorities that he would be released today (yesterday),” said the former primary school English language teacher, affectionately known as Cikgu Laila.
“As I am currently away for work in Sabah with my son, I asked my husband if he would prefer to stay with his father or with my sister, who lives near our home in Taman Keramat.
“He chose to stay the night at his father’s in Kampung Pandan. If I had known earlier about his release, I would have made the necessary plans to welcome him upon his homecoming.”
Her husband, Mat Sah Mohd Satray, was among five Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) suspects released from detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) yesterday. He had been detained for seven years and five months at the detention camp in Kamunting, Taiping.
Norlaila described her husband’s release as “a good surprise”. Nevertheless, she feels there will still be plenty of challenges ahead for Mat Sah as well as for her family to get back to normalcy after all these years apart.
“My son was happy when he heard the news but I can see that this is also a dilemma for him.” Mat Sah and Norlaila’s only son, Suhaib, is aged 16.
“He kept asking me questions like, ‘How is Abah going to treat me? Will he be nice to me?’ and ‘How will I communicate with Abah’?
“He had been separated from his father before he even turned nine, so he was unable to enjoy the father-and-son bond like others could,” explained Norlaila.
“He even asked me where he will sit in my car. It used to be only the two of us for the last seven years. I drove and he would sit at the front.
“Now that his father is back, he will have to take the back seat. These are simple things but they trouble him and I don’t blame him. It’s like trying to get used to a father, who is a ‘stranger’ newly joining us in our lives.”
Norlaila also expects there may be difficulties for Mat Sah in going back to work. However, she feels that they will be able to cope as she is currently working on a freelance basis for the Anti-ISA Movement (Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA) as a member of its working committee, having taken two years’ leave from her teaching job.
“I advised my husband to be patient with whatever hardships that may arise and that we must pray to God for something to sustain ourselves. We must be prepared.”
Norlaila to continue activist workHER husband may have been released from detention yesterday, but as far as Anti-ISA Movement (Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA) committee member Norlaila Othman is concerned, her days as an activist are far from over.
“I’m not doing this activist work only for him. I’m also doing this for everyone, all the people who shouldn’t be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA),” she said.
Her husband, Mat Sah Mohd Satray, was among five Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) suspects released from detention under the ISA yesterday. He had been detained for seven years and five months at the detention camp in Kamunting, Taiping.
“My role in the movement is to educate the people on their rights and their freedom. I hold to the principle that one is innocent until proven otherwise.
“Those detained under the ISA were put under lock-and-key without a fair trial. They do not go through the proper channels through the courts like normal people do.
“They’re not given any explanation for their detention or shown proof of their wrongdoings. They do not have access to legal aid or given room for appeal. This is why people don’t agree with the ISA.”
When asked if she felt there was a necessity for such an Act when dealing with high-risk persons, such as in the case of terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari of Singapore, who is currently also under detention, Norlaila stuck with her statement, saying that, “Even he ought to be given a fair trial.”
She added: “The existence of the ISA is as if the government isn’t sincere about the rights of its people.”
For the time being, she might have to go slow with her work for a few months to help her husband get back on his feet again before resuming with her involvement in the movement.