Diary of the night vigil III

Rages Ambalam
26 Nov 06

The humbug trial finally came to an end on Thursday, 23 November 2006. I managed a peck on my dad’s cheek before they took him away with Dr Chee & Uncle Yap. As I was coming out of the sub-court with my mother and daughter, the words of Mahatma Gandhi that my dad often read to me rang in my ears “There are just laws and there are unjust laws…..to hell with unjust laws”. Yes. To hell with unjust laws.

That evening, I went to the Queenstown Remand Prison for the first night of our vigil. Reality only struck me when I came back home at about midnight. That my father has been incarcerated for three weeks. He has been punished for standing up against an unjust system which has enforced these unjust laws to cripple the voices of democracy. He has been sentenced for his strong principles and beliefs to see a truly democratic Singapore. Fear slowly crept into me. I wondered if he would be treated with the due dignity and care that should rightfully be accorded to him. A political prisoner of conscience.

The next morning at about nine, I called Queenstown Remand to fix a time for our first visit. When I gave my dad’s name I was quickly told by the female officer who came on the line that I will not be allowed to see him that day and would have to wait for the Visitation Letter stating the date and time of visit. The letter was “apparently” mailed-out precisely about that time as we spoke. I demanded to know the reason for this as I was told by a lawyer friend that I will be allowed my first visit the very next day. The officer initially said that this has been the system since 2000 and when I persisted, she changed her story and said that the prison authority had this system since 2005. I decided that I had enough of this nonsense and demanded to speak to her senior officer or the Superintendent. I was kept on hold for more than 10 minutes. I got tired of holding and hung-up to call again. The call was then answered by another female officer who immediately said that I could visit my dad at 1.15 pm that day even before I could mention my dad’s name.

I went to QRP at about 12.30 with my mother and we took along my daughter, nephew and niece who are aged 6, 12 & 13 years respectively to visit their grandfather. My 12-year-old nephew couldn’t wait to tell his grandfather how he fared at the PSLE exams.

We were given a pass to enter tele-Visit Room for 30 minutes. Only after I saw my dad on the tele-screen was my fear put to rest. He said that he was well and the medication for his heart ailment were properly administered. He said his two cell mates were very friendly and eager to talk to him and joked that he actually didn’t need his books which he had brought along. The 30 minutes went by all too soon. As we were coming out, we met Mrs Chee with her three young children sitting at the waiting area for their turn to see Dr Chee.

I updated her on my dad’s condition.

Last night, I have come to QRP again for the 3rd night to keep vigil. It was indeed really heartening to see another half a dozen supporters there to express their solidarity for the course the three men had taken. The night went on with us sharing our own thoughts and fears about the direction our nation is taking under the flickers of the candle lights.

We even talked and laughed about the satirical clip titled “PAPtrix” of Dr Chee, Uncle Yap, Ms Chee and my dad that was posted on Sammyboy. Who said Singaporeans lacked creativity? It’s just that our sense of humor, and the ability to laugh at ourselves has slowly been sucked away from us by this cold and callous system.

We ended our vigil with a loud “Good Night!” to our three men behind the imposing fortress, hoping that they will indeed have a good night’s rest and for the other nights to come. They have been in this fight for several years and momentum has picked-up. This is evident in the sheer fact that more and more friends and supporters have been coming over the last few nights to stay vigil with us outside QRP without fear. The shackles of fear are slowly being broken and a free and democratic Singapore is surely in sight.

Once again Mahatma Gandhi’s words are ringing in my ears “There are just laws and there are unjust laws. To hell with unjust laws”.

Majulah Singapura!

p.s. Rages Ambalam is daughter of Mr Gandhi Ambalam who is currently serving a 3 weeks jail term for speaking in public without a permit.

Keep vigil with the 3 prisoners of conscience