A candlelight vigil was held on the night of 17 Dec 08, the last night of Mr Isrizal’s and Mr Shafi’ie’s prison sentence.
More than 30 friends, family, activists and supporters came to the vigil which stretched through the night as they awaited the release of the two men. Mr John Tan started serving his sentence on 16 Dec and will be released on 30 Dec 08.
Candles were lit and lined the kerb facing the main gates of the Queenstown Remand Prison. By midnight, there were just five who were able to stay through the night. But they were not alone as messages of support and pledges of solidarity had been penned on a large placard. SMSes of the same spirit were received throughout the night.
A vigil is a kind of purposeful sleeplessness – the Latin root, vigilia, denotes “watch, watchfulness, wakefulness”. Traditionally used in an ecclesiastical sense to describe a devotional exercise performed on the eve of a festival or holy day, in this instance it was a night to devote attention to our three prisoners of conscience.
Famously dubbed as the “kangaroo t-shirt trio”, the contempt of court charges were brought against them by the Attorney-General who insisted that he took action in his capacity as the “Guardian of the Public Interest”.
As a public interest issue, the question remains if this was the best course of action to take against three citizens for wearing t-shirts which bore an image with no words.
The night was cool and the air still. Sound carried from the guardhouse behind the gates. At one point, late into the night, the guard could be heard reporting on the vigil: “One was ‘doing arts-&-craft’, the others chatting whilst another was ‘looking at the stars’, etc.” The arts-&-craft activity was in reference to the making of a “Welcome Back” sign.
Morning came and supporters and well-wishers arrived to greet the two as the time of release neared.
At around 10 am, Mr Shafi’ie emerged. He strode to the gates, calm, composed and dignified. He was garlanded and warmly hugged. He was also presented with a booklet, a compilation of articles about his valour and strength in the face of such difficulty, especially at such a young age. The song was performed with gusto and to much laughter.
Mr Isrizal appeared soon after (at about 10.30 am). Upon exiting the prison, he punched the air shouting “Merdeka!” The same welcome was extended and he was also garlanded, hugged and “serenaded”.
A letter by Jufrie Mahmood
Hi little brother,
Our paths crossed not very long ago. But the more I get to know you the more respect I have for you. Your quiet ways seem to betray the strength that is within you.
I suppose even the judge failed to judge your character correctly when he asked you to tender your apologies. He forgot the adage of not judging a book by its cover. If only we had more youngsters like you and brother Isrizal the battle would have been won long ago.
This Thursday morning I watched you marching out of Queenstown Prison and as I garlanded and hugged you I could feel your heartbeat. It somehow tells me that you are none the worse for the experience.
Surely Singapore has not heard the last of this young patriot, I told myself. As for those who think that this young man had been misled into “committing a crime” it would do them well to think again and be honest with themselves. How could a man with such a strong conviction to put things right ever be misled into doing something against his will?
Some, perhaps even members of your own family, may think that you are being ridiculous. But to many others you are simply extraordinary. Someday, I am sure, they will come round to see your point.
I read the piece written by Chih Mei. Like her I too have three young children. They may or may not trek the path which their father has taken. But I make it a point to engage and guide them to do the right things. They may or may not go astray in this materialistic world, but God willing they will ultimately choose the right path. And never be swayed by PAP propaganda.
In Isrizal I could see another man with a conviction that is equally strong. I could sense it as I watched him taking his stride from the prison gates. He knows exactly what he wants to do and where he is heading.
Together with our brothers in the SDP we can play a role that even the Malay MPs and so called religious leaders shy away from, ie to stand up for our rights within the context of a multi-racial setting.
I cannot help feeling that his short “vacation” with you in Queenstown has made him much stronger and better prepared for the long journey ahead. We will not be making this journey all on our own.
Many people I have been speaking to appear to be waiting to be led. Many issues need to be addressed and solutions found. Let’s put our shoulders to the wheel and steer it towards the right direction.
Very best regards,
Oh Shafi’ie and Isrizal,
For seven days, you were jailed
Because of _ _ _ and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (**)
And a single kangaroo
And now you’re back with us today
We hope you enjoyed your stay
But John’s still inside this afternoon
And the rest will join in, soon
Hip Hop Hooray
Hip Hop Hooray
Hip Hop Hooray Hooray
Hip Hop Hooray
Hip Hop Hooray
Hip Hop Hooray today
**Play hangman. Fill in the blanks at your own peril.