The Arrest, Part I

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Selangor is Malaysia’s most progressive state. It is the place people from all over the country migrate to for education and jobs. We suffer from over-population, traffic jams and water shortage. Selangor also has a law which says that it is an offence for non-Muslims to use a number of words which belong to Islam. At the top of the list of over thirty words is the word Allah.

The Malay bible used by Malay-speaking Christians uses the word Allah for the generic noun “god.” Thus, the first verse of the Bible “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”  (Genesis 1:1) in the Malay version has the word Allah. It so happens that the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), the publisher and distributor of the Malay bible, has its offices in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Thus, on January 2, Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS) raided BSM’s office.

At 2.10 pm, after spending about 30 minutes in BSM offices, the JAIS party seized over 300 copies of the Malay bible, the Iban bible and the Indonesian bible. The leader of the raiding party turned to Sinclair and me and said “You, Lee, and you, Wong, I arrest you. You have to come with me to the police station.”

We were then taken in the JAIS official car to the Damansara Utama Police Station. We arrived at the police station in 5 minutes as the station was across the highway from BSM’s office. Upon entering the lobby of the police station, the JAIS fellows told Sinclair and me to sit down at some chairs for visitors. The leader of the JAIS party and another man went to the counter of the police station and proceeded to fill out, I think, a police report of the incident.

Before my seat could get warm, a young Indian man walked through the door. He looked at me and asked if we were from BSM. I said we were and he introduced himself as a reporter from The Malaysian Insider, an internet news portal. He said that news of the raid and our arrest is already up in the Malaysian Insider website. We gave our first interview of the incident. A few minutes later, another reporter from another paper walked in and joined the conversation.

After about 15 minutes, the JAIS party began to leave the police station. The leader of the group stopped by where we were sitting and asked whether we could come to JAIS office to see them next Monday, January 6. I said no as I got a case in court on that day. How about Tuesday, he asked. I said no as my trial continues on that day. I then said I could come on Wednesday. He replied that he would be on leave on Wednesday. Then I said how about Friday, January 10. He said that day is fine and asked us to come at 10.00 am. I said all right. He then went back to the counter to speak to the police officers. Then he walked past us and said OK, see you. You wouldn’t have guessed this was the same man who tried to kick down our door 1 hour earlier. So, by 2.30 pm, all the JAIS people had left the police station.

Before I could wonder whether I could go or not, a police constable came to us and said that the police inspector who signs the bail papers is out and he is on the way back. He said we will have to wait for the inspector to get back to sign the papers before we could be released on bail.

Let’s pause for a moment here to set the record straight. Sinclair and I were arrested by JAIS at 2.10 pm and then taken to the Police Station. While at the Police Station, we were handed over to the Police to be further detained. This is an interesting situation for lawyers to talk about. JAIS was a state body and the Police are a Federal body. So, we were arrested and detained by a State body and the custody was transferred to a Federal body which continued our detention.

(To be continued)

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