After spending 27 days in jail for jumping bail, Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Md Yunos has called for prison reforms, including facilitating the smoking of tobacco.
Speaking to reporters at his home yesterday, Jamal said nicotine addicts have found many creative, albeit dangerous, ways to bring tobacco into jail when they were brought out for court proceedings.
He said that the most common method used was to swallow plastic bags containing tobacco.
Jamal also claimed that some detainees even swallowed cigarette lighters.
“Sometimes it can be fatal when the plastic bag ruptures,” he added.
Jamal suggested that prisoners who need to smoke should be allowed when they receive visits or once a day.
“The objective is to reduce (contrabands). Perhaps I’ll be criticised by the public for saying this, but they don’t understand. I’ve been there.”
He said prisoners are subjected to intense checks for contrabands and those caught were subjected to severe punishments.
Jamal said he was placed in the “tawakal” block which was supposed to be the best block in the Sungai Buloh prison, which to him still felt like the worse place on earth.
He said the block had a stench and that the confined space caused mental anguish, even to the prison guards.
Entering the prison, he said, felt like entering a grave.
Jamal urged the federal government to improve working conditions for prison guards, afford them better wages and accord them with the same facilities and perks as other civil servants.
“They are very stressed. They are like inmates. They are locked in with the inmates,” he said, adding that there were only a few guards handling about 5,000 inmates.
Jamal said he was surprised that he was well-known among the inmates, even among those who have been in jail for many years.
“The Sosma detainees were not happy with me. This is the orang BN who created Sosma,” he said, in reference to those detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 which allowed for detention without trial.
The jail was an important lesson from God, said Jamal, and it had helped educate him.
He said he finally understood how PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim felt during the 13 cumulative years in prison.
“It was at the time that I had to salute Anwar. He spent years in jail. He was mentally and spiritually tough. When I was in there, I understood how Anwar, as a human and leader, was cukup hebat (incredible) and should be given recognition.
“What he did was between him and God,” he said.
Jamal said he lost 7kg during his time in prison.
He also said he will still be active in Umno and will join the Sungai Kandis by-election campaign.
Asked if he would go back to holding demonstrations, Jamal said it was too early to tell.
Jamal also revealed how he was able to afford senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
“He volunteered to represent me without any payment. I told him I was afraid I couldn’t afford him and asked him about his fees.
“He said that my fee was feeding the poor for free in my restaurants. ‘That is your fee to me. That is why I came (to help you)’,” said Jamal.
Jamal was arrested soon after the fall of the BN government over a slew of charges. After jumping bail, he was arrested in Indonesia and brought back.
His next court date is on Aug 10 over two trespass charges. – Malaysiakini