Five Weeks In Jail Retired Engineer Vows To Keep Fighting For Justice
Four years ago, Singaporean Wong Chun Khuen’s life turned upside down when he was detained by Malaysian Immigration Department officers in Johor.
The 65-year-old retired engineer was held for five weeks in total, slapped with an RM30,000 fine and barred from entering Malaysia.
However, Wong, who was held at the Pekan Nanas immigration depot in Johor, continues to fight for justice and vows to expose the alleged wrongdoings he had witnessed.
Last year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur declared his detention, from March 14-26 in 2018, prior to his conviction illegal as he was not produced before a magistrate within 14 days of his arrest on Feb 28.
Wong is also seeking the court to declare his eight days behind bars before his deportation as unlawful. This was despite the Magistrate’s Court issuing a release order after he pleaded guilty and paid the fine.
A comparison of South East Asian countries’ detention period for detainees before they appear in court.“This is inequality of justice,” Wong told Malaysiakini.
“Since you have charged me, please charge your immigration officers (who violated the law) as well.
“I have paid the price, but every officer involved in those criminal acts should be charged as well,” he added.
The raid that upended his life
Before retirement, Wong was working in Malaysia, since 2009, for a multinational corporation. In 2010, he obtained the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme visa and settled down in a house he purchased in Johor.
Active in a Johor-based charity organisation, Wong had bought a bungalow in Iskandar Puteri to house those from vulnerable groups.
On Feb 28, 2018, the retired engineer was surprised to see a team of immigration officers raiding the Iskandar Puteri unit.
“The officer asked for my documents and I gave him my pink-coloured Singapore identity card. I also informed him that I have an MM2H long-term visa.
“Unfortunately, I left my passport in my Singapore-registered car that was parked in my other house in Johor, which is less than a 10-minute drive,” he added.
However, Wong claimed the officer turned down his request to go home and get his passport from the car.
He was arrested and taken to the Setia Tropika immigration office. Three days later, he was transferred to the Pekan Nanas immigration depot.
Wong spent the next 27 days in a cell. He was only produced before a magistrate on March 26. His family immediately settled the fine and secured a release order.
Despite this, he was still not free.
Wong was taken to the Kluang prison, where he spent three days, and then transferred to the Pekan Nanas immigration depot again. On April 4, he was allowed to return to Singapore.
In the first part of his interview, Wong recounted his ordeal during detention, including being forced to do squats in the Pekan Nanas Immigration Depot despite suffering from asthma and high blood pressure.
‘Appoint a fixer, not lawyer’
Wong said he chose to plead guilty despite the purported lack of evidence against him because he did not want to spend another night locked up.
“I decided to admit guilt after a long talk with my lawyer. So that I can get out as soon as possible, instead of facing months of uncertainty.
“A few months after my release, I suffered a heart attack in Singapore. Thankfully, I received world-class treatment that saved my life.
“Imagine, if I did not plead guilty and let them put me back inside for as long as they liked, you know what would have happened,” he added.
Wong Chun KhuenMeanwhile, Wong claimed there were numerous ways for officers to exploit the detainees and their families to seek bribes at the immigration depot.
During the first week of his detention, Wong claimed that an acquaintance of his had met his family to discuss a “helpful suggestion” after the latter met an immigration officer who handled his case.
“The acquaintance mentioned that the officer was a kind, helpful and religious person who was trying to help me to resolve my case.
“My family had a crisis meeting. They knew this officer was setting a trap for me to sink into a deeper hole. Eventually, my family refused to offer money for my release,” he added.
Wong also lodged a police report on this matter after he was sent back to Singapore.
Wong claimed when he was in Kluang prison, he witnessed a Chinese national detainee being released after his wife allegedly paid RM3,000.
The Chinese national, he alleged, was still in prison despite his wife having settled the fine imposed on him.
Wong claimed when the wife went to the Setia Tropika immigration centre to inquire about her husband’s status, an officer asked for an additional RM3,000 to facilitate the detainee’s release.
The retired engineer said if not for the Singapore High Commission’s assistance, he would not have tasted freedom without coughing up a “ransom” despite having paid the fine.
‘RM10k to remove name from blacklist’
During his incarceration, Wong said he refused to offer bribes and insisted on using the proper channels.
After his release, he claimed an immigration officer said he could strike out his name from the blacklist using the “backdoor” and gave him a phone number.
“I took the number out of curiosity. When I called, the person at the other end offered this service for RM10,000,” he claimed, adding that it was a discount since the person said the market rate was RM15,000.
A screenshot showing Wong had a short conversation with the number provided in April 2018. A check revealed that the phone number is no longer in service.Malaysiakini has contacted the Home Ministry and Bukit Aman federal police headquarters for comment on Wong’s allegations.
During the interview, Wong also criticised Malaysia’s immigration laws as being “anti-foreigner” and “anti-human rights”.
“This Immigration Act has given them extra power against foreigners. But even so, they still do not comply with the Act. This was what I went through. The Nigerian student (Thomas Orhions Ewansiha) who died in custody was also because of unlawful detention.
“The law allows them to abuse their power and they have caused a lot of grief to foreigners, especially those brought over by the illegal agents. When they return to their countries, their lives are destroyed because they are poor,” he added.
Responding to a question, Wong said he had spent over RM100,000 to fight his case in the courts.
“To me, this money is nothing compared to having all these records set right and being established as legal facts,” he added.
Wong has also detailed his experience in a blog. - Mkini
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