Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Prisoners yearn to celebrate Aidilfitri with loved ones


Every time the holy of Syawal arrives, Ishak (not his real name) sinks into a state of melancholy thinking of his family especially his mother who died of intestine cancer three years ago. He said he was informed about his beloved mother’s death when he was just a few months into the seven years jail and 10 strokes of the rotan sentence meted out to him to be served at the Penang Prison after he was found guilty for illegal firearms possession in 2006. “I’m sad not just because I did not get to see her face for the last time, but also because I did not get to ask for her forgiveness on Aidilfitri,” said Ishak, struggling to hold back tears when he told Bernama his story yesterday. For his wrongdoing, the former contractor who yearns for his three children, aged between three and eight, wife and father, had to keep the feeling to himself. “When I’m released I want to visit my mother’s grave,” Ishak said when met during a community goodwill programme organised by Penang Prison in conjunction with Aidilfitri, here yesterday. Ishak was among the 19 lucky prisoners who were chosen to spend an hour with their respective families at the prison’s canteen yesterday. He also presented souvenirs he made for his family. “My sorrow healed a little when I got to hug and talk to my wife and children in person. I also gave a mirror frame which I personally made to my wife. “I learned to make all the handicrafts and frames in the prison and I would like to start anew in this business when I’m released later. This skill is very precious,” he said while holding his wife’s hand. He also hoped to be accepted back into the community without the stigma of being an ex-convict. He said it was the first time he had seen his family in person because for the past three years, they could only see and talk to each other from behind a glass wall. In a repentant tone, Ishak vowed to live a better life and never to repeat the same mistake again. “This is my advice to everybody out there. Don’t ever violate the law or you’ll end up behind bars. Appreciate the freedom you have now,” he said. His views were shared by his fellow inmate, Sulaiman (not his real name), 42, who is also serving seven years in jail for a drug offence. “The prison is not an interesting place to live in. It takes a tremendous toll on one’s emotion. Don’t create a reason to come in here,” he said. Looking at his seven-year-old twin daughters, he lamented over the fact that he would not be there to watch them grow up. Also present to meet him yesterday were his wife and mother. For a mother, Sharifah (not her real name), 63, the Aidilfitri this year meant nothing to her as she could not celebrate it with her son, KafiinTit his real name), 26, who was sentenced to six years jail for drug abuse. “I don’t even want to hear an Aidilfitri song, let alone celebrate it. I’m so sad over the fate of my son. I really hope he’ll change,” she said. Meanwhile, Penang Prison Director, Abdul Basir Mohamad said the 19 prisoners were chosen due to their good behaviour while in prison. He said, the programme was also meant to give the opportunity to prisoners’ families to show their support to the inmates and strengthen their family ties. - Bernama

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