Muhamad Arif Abu Samah, 20, Mohamed Ramadan Mohamed Ali, 22, and his brother Mohamed Rafe, 20, were arrested in March last year and detained and banished to different states under the Emergency Ordinance (EO).
On March 6 this year, the orders restricting their movement for two years were cancelled.
In an exclusive interview with The Star at the Suaram office in Petaling Jaya, Arif and Rafe talked about their exile and the future. Ramadan was not present as he was in Penang.
“I’m so happy! It’s been a long while since I’ve seen my family,” said an exuberant Arif.
“I can think about the future now as there are no obstacles. I can study if I want or focus on work.
“I don’t feel frightened of the police any more: I’m free!”
Rafe, who was more reticent, is in a dilemma – he wants to work but is unsure as to what he wants to do.
For almost a year, nothing in their lives was certain.
On March 8, police woke them from their sleep at their homes in Selayang and dragged them off for interrogation on suspicion of stealing motorcycles.
After a merry-go-round of police stations over the span of 10 days, they were slapped with a 60-day detention order under Section 3(1) of the EO.
On May 16, that was replaced by a two-year order restricting Arif to Mukim Lenggor in Mersing, Johor; Ramadan to Mukim Chenor in Maran, Pahang; and Rafe to Mukim Sungai Ular in Kulim, Kedah.
Soon after, lawyers from Pusat Rakyat Loyar Burok filed applications challenging the legality of their detention and of the EO itself.
The legal team used the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sept 15, where Najib said that it was time to do away with emergency laws, to write to the Home Ministry and petition an early release. On Nov 24, Parliament lifted the Proclamation.
Meanwhile, every Monday, the trio reported to their respective police stations between 8am and 6pm.
“I’d always get a lecture to stay away from crime,” Rafe said.
“The police would come to my house at night twice a month,” he said, adding wryly, “just to make sure, I suppose.”
Arif, Ramadan and Rafe have always denied any involvement in stealing motorcycles but the police have not had to prove their allegations because they never charged them in court. The matter is now considered closed as their solicitor told the court on March 14 that they were officially withdrawing their case against the Government.
When in exile, Ramadan and Rafe had found their new neighbours less than welcoming but coming home has not been easy either.
Their arrest has pushed their future in different directions.
Arif is returning to Mersing to his job in the fast-food industry with his family’s blessings.
“They just asked me to be cautious.”
He wants to turn the negative experience into a positive one.
The cop he first reported to could be a factor.
While Rafe was gruffly told “don’t cause trouble here!”, Arif’s told him to “be good, work hard and show you can succeed”.
“Regardless of what people say, I want to prove to those who accused me that I can succeed,” Arif said.
Rafe is not returning to Kulim; he thinks he might try for a job as a despatch.
Ramadan, however, is looking for a job elsewhere.
“I think it is better to be cautious,” Arif said.
If anything happens now, people will blame us first,” added the two who thanked Suaram, their lawyers and the media for highlighting their case over the past year.