On the 24th of November 2008, my mother, Dr. Irene Fernandez, human rights activist, director of Tenaganita and all around extraordinary person, was acquitted and the conviction and sentence of 12 months imprisonment imposed on her in 2003 has been set aside.
She is now a free woman.
Praise be the Lord!
Despite the ‘multiple recipients’ to this e-mail, you must know, dear one, that your name was ‘checked’ because you’ve added to the mighty pillar of support that has strengthened me, my mother and my family all of these years. We all do what we can, within our ability — you have done so time and time again, and for that, my deepest gratitude goes out to you.
13 years is a very long time. The trial has been in my life longer than it hasn’t (ok, yes, i’m 23. *ahem). My reality has been shaped by this, the presence of my mother in my life during these formative years of my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood affected by the constant harassment towards my mother and her work on charges so incredibly stupid and through actions so cowardly by the powers that be. Yet, although frustrated that my mother hasn’t been able to enjoy many liberties (her passport held by the courts, unable to travel easily, restricted from making long term plans because of the trial that stretched on without an end in sight, not being able to take a holiday with us, having her work restricted, etc), I’ve always felt that things happen for a reason, and that the trial served to highlight the deep errors and travesties of justice and systematic human rights abuses that exist in our country.
The end of the trial, therefore, has been a bittersweet one for me. Don’t get me wrong: I am overjoyed that my mother is finally F.R.E.E. There isn’t a quiver of doubt about that. The bitter taste that’s left, however, is due to the manner in which she was acquitted; the Public Prosecutor decided ‘not to oppose’ the appeal by the Defence. The scandalous errors of missing notes and evidence and later court-typed notes which were illegible thus making it impossible to proceed with an appeal were the basis of this acquittal. It was on the these technical flaws that she was acquitted.
She wasn’t acquitted because the courts have finally vindicated the truths she and her organization so bravely sung 13 years ago. She wasn’t acquitted because the courts have admitted to the human rights abuses that were ripe and rife in Malaysia’s detention camps 13 years ago. She wasn’t acquitted in a way that can hold the government accountable for their actions. The battle therefore continues. The Good Fight hasn’t ended. Not by a long shot.
I celebrate this victory purely because my mother is now free, and I celebrate this victory because she’s going to fight harder than ever.
I celebrate my mother who brought me up to be constantly vigilant in life and to be clear and maddeningly persistent for the truth and for what is just, true and right. I celebrate the countless heroes who have been present in my life especially my family members and the family at Tenaganita. I celebrate all who have worked silently, tirelessly and with so much care all these years for the greater good of others.
While we celebrate, I say again that this isn’t a time to rest, this isn’t a time to say “justice has been served” — we are a long way from thumping our chests to that victory beat.
Giving up wasn’t an option 13 years ago, and should we be simply appeased by this acquittal, we’d be giving up on the fight that was started when a brave lady and her brave colleagues decided to speak up for the silenced and the oppressed more than a decade ago.
I am certain that God works in the most beautiful mysterious ways, and although I’d have liked the acquittal to have come in a different manner, I am thankful to the Lord for freedom for our family. It’s good to have mom back.
It’s very good to have her back.
With love, peace and gratitude,
Katrina Jorene Maliamuv