KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — Human rights watchdog Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) today highlighted the case of Mohd Redzuan Saibon, 36, who has been imprisoned since he was 17-years-old for having drugs in his possession and is hoping the government will help secure his release.
Suaram documentation and monitoring coordinator Dobby Chew Chuan Yang said they are glad that Minister in the Prime Ministers Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong has promised to look into the case after meeting with Liew’s press secretary today.
“We just had a meeting with YB Liew Vui Keong’s press secretary and it was productive. YB wasn’t aware of the case and has seen our documents outlining the basics of the case.
“They will bring it to the pardons board as soon as possible and from there the next seating could take some time so we are hopeful of getting some good news for Redzuan and his family,” said Chew when met outside the Prime Minister’s Office today.
Redzuan was caught with 30kg of cannabis on February 22, 2000 and was charged under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.
He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced on October 9, 2001 under Section 97 of the Child Act 2001 which was already in force at the time of sentencing.
According to the Child Act 2001, juvenile offenders under Section 97 are supposed to be reviewed annually by the Board of Visiting Justices who will provide recommendations on theor early release to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Without this review process, a juvenile detained under Section 97 of the Child Act 2001 faces the prospect of indefinite detention.
Redzuan, however, has told Suaram that he had only three meetings with visiting justices and that his case was not reviewed in line with Section 97(4) as he was only asked basic questions relating to his aspirations after release and his condition in prison.
“Suaram submitted a complaint on the matter to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) on 25 July 2018 to which the government responded to on 4 October 2018,” said Chew.
“Suaram replied to the Malaysian government’s response to UNWGAD on 19 October 2018 and received a full response from UNWGAD along with their opinion on the matter.
“Suaram then contacted the Prison Department, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the matter but has yet to receive a response,” he said.
Redzuan’s 65-year-old wheelchair-bound mother, Siti Wan Abdul Jabar who was also present today, recounted the day her son was arrested.
She insists he was innocent of the crime and accused the police of coaxing him into admitting by promising him an early release.
“On the day this happened I remember him getting a phone call at home from someone and I heard him saying ‘I haven’t showered bang. After I shower I’ll come’,” recalled Siti who sells goreng pisang at Chow Kit Road for a living.
“Within ten minutes of him going out the cops suddenly raided the house we were renting in Kampung Baru and they ransacked the place. They saw some money on the table and immediately accused us of having drug money.
“I kept telling them this money is money we earned from selling goreng pisang and I had told Redzuan to leave it on the table so I can count it later.”
Siti said the police refused to listen to her pleas and arrested her son and took her to the police station as well.
One of Redzuan’s family members who wished not to be named said that initially, the drugs were in an uncle’s house without the uncle’s knowledge. When the said uncle found out about it, he got angry and told whomever responsible for it to get it out of his premises.
This was when someone phoned Redzuan and asked if he would keep the drugs at his place, to which Redzuan agreed.
Siti said when the police took her son, they told him if he admitted to the crime he will be released by the time he was 21.
“Redzuan agreed to it as he felt bad I was being harassed and he also thought he would be out in four years.
“However, on the day of sentencing, the police took him to court without telling us. They did everything so fast it seemed rushed.
“So we waited till he was 21 but nothing happened and he is still in prison till today,” Siti said.
Redzuan is the only son in the family and the eldest of four. When he was arrested his siblings were seven, eight and 14-years-old, respectively. They are all married now.
Since Siti’s husband’s passing in 2004, she has been the sole breadwinner for the family.
“Life’s tough but I still go and visit Redzuan every month.
“I buy him whatever food he wants, as I know how prison food can be. I also bank in RM150 into his account every month for his supplies and bring soap, sugar and other supplies he asks for.
“I hope God or anyone out there will help my son as he is a good boy and only wanted to help his friends,” said Siti.
According to Chew, when he visited Redzuan in prison last year, he was told there are others in prison with similar cases like his.
“Redzuan said there are others with the same situation but we do not have those details. For now, Suaram calls on the minister to review Redzuan’s case and assist the family in pursuing justice.
“Nineteen years imprisonment for someone who was convicted as a juvenile is inappropriate in any context and every day Redzuan remains in prison is an injustice,” added Chew.