Statement by Nat Tan ( 4 days under OSA)

Posted: July 19, 2007 in Freedom of Speech

Retrieved from Nat Tan’s blog

Four Days Under the OSA

I was arrested on Friday, the 13th of July at approximately 4.30pm in the carpark basement (B3) of Phileo Damansara I by about four to five policemen.

While originally being taken in for questioning, the police arrested me when I conveyed to them my lawyers advice that I should not accompany the police to their office unaccompanied by legal counsel.

From Phileo Damansara, I was taken to my house where the police confiscated my computer, some CD’s and some documents.

From the moment I was arrested until about 11 pm, I was not allowed to speak to anyone I knew, or inform anybody of my whereabouts.

I later learnt that this caused an immense and completely avoidable amount of stress and anxiety amongst my loved ones.

I was eventually made to understand that I was arrested in connection to accusations made on the internet regarding Datuk Johari Baharum.

The connection to me was based on a comment made on my blog that was made by an anonymous commentor on the 10th of Februrary, 2007.

It was prepostorous of the police to suspect me of publishing these accusations based on documents protected by the Official Secrets Act that were supposedly in my posessesion. There is absolutely nothing even remotely resembling proof to substantiate such claims.

Throughout my detention, the police employed various questioning strategies in what struck me strongly as a concerted attempt to make me admit to things that I had not done.

The police also subjected me to various rounds of questioning between about 5.30pm and 9pm by different police officers who all kept asking me the same questions. I later learnt that questioning at such late hours was in fact illegal.

One of the officers questioning me that evening who refused to identify himself threatened to slap me and throw me across the room.

Not having access to legal counsel, I refused to answer in detail any questions the police posed in their extremely suspicious manner.

The situation worsened on Saturday, the 14th of July.

Despite my repeated appeals to the police officers accompanying me to court to be produced before the magistrate for the remand hearing, they absolutely refused to notify my family or, more importantly, my lawyers that I was to be produced in court.

This caused in me a great deal of undue stress because I feared that I would be forced to face the magistrate without any legal representation.

Entirely by a stroke of luck, a lawyer at the magistrate’s court was able to assist me in contacting my lawyer, R Sivarasa. Had said lawyer not been present, I may have not been given the opportunity to be represented by counsel during my hearing, and my remand order may have been for fourteen days instead of for four.

Even after my lawyer arrived, the police made every possible effort to block me from consulting with my lawyers, denying me extremely basic human rights connected to judicial due process. This even included repeatedly trying to spy and eavsdrop on the conversations I was attempting to have with my lawyers.

After the remand order was allowed, the police continued to pursue the same line of questioning.

Having being advised by my lawyer during my remand hearing not to answer any questions or sign any statements, I refused to answer the increasingly combative line of questioning by the police.

On Saturday itself, a senior officer employed physical means in an attempt to intimidate me into answering their questions. This included shoving me into a chair while I was standing handcuffed.

Although I had stated my intent to exercise my right to silence, and despite my lawyer’s argument that the police had all the evidence they required to investigate me, the police’s insistence on holding me for all four days proved a complete waste of my time and of police resources. I was also made to endure unhygenic and pitifully substandard accomdations in the lockup throughout this time.

All other attempts to pressure and coerce me into providing information under adverse conditions failed. Finally, on Monday, I was allowed to see my family, who conveyed to me fresh advice from my lawyer regarding what information I could provide.

Armed at last with the knowledge that I had been seeking since Friday, I was more than happy to provide all the information I had available to the police.

The entire ordeal for both myself and the police could have been avoided if the police had extended some basic human courtesy and decency in allowing me to consult fully with legal counsel before cooperating with the police, which I was more than happy to do under fair and reasonable circumstances.


I fear greatly that my arrest despite the non-existent ties between the accusations against Datuk Johari and myself portend badly for Malaysia’s abilty to deal with true cyber crime.

The fact that I appear to be the best suspect they could arrest in relation to this case indicates that the police do not understand how the internet works, and are at a complete loss as to how to handle true cyber crime.

In my particular case as well, the government and police appear to be sending a signal that while irresponsible bloggers roam free, responsible bloggers who moderate their comments and put a name to their writing are more likely to end up as targets. This policy could not possibly be more ill formed and counterproductive.

Given certain statements in the press recently, I unfortunately cannot rule out completely that the substandard and rushed nature of this investigation is the result of political meddling and pressure in police affairs.

I am also gravely concerned because as my lawyer pointed out in the remand hearing, arrests should take place at the conclusion of an investigation, and not at the beginning of one. What happened to me is beyond doubt an absolute travesty of this principle.

If the police continue in their attempts to procur information from innocent citizens in bad faith and through questionable means such as by coercing information from individuals isolated from legal counsel and outside support, they will find themselves failing the public in their duty to protect Malaysians from true criminal activity.


This entire episode smacks of intimidation. Ongoing and unrelenting intimidation towards social activists, internet writers and opposition supporters.

The ranking officer in the unit investigating me even took the time to ‘advise’ me to emulate the example and career trajectories of individuals like Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. The same officer also warned me to be considerate to my parents as I choose my career paths.

While I appreciate the advice, I wish to reiterate here that the causes I have chosen were chosen with due care and consideration, and after thorough analysis of the state of Malaysia’s social and political climate. I love my parents very much, and hate the fact that this episode has caused them such unhappiness. However, my responsibility is also to my future children, and the Malaysia they will inherit.

Any assumptions that my experience will dissuade other activists and citizens of conscience from exerting all our energies in upholding their responsibilities to their parents, their children, and to all of Malaysia are sadly, sadly misplaced.

My time with the police taught me that all the efforts by political parties and civil society to curb the excesses of the police and the government have proven extremely effective.

The police were extremely concerned that they might be portrayed in a bad light after my release, and took a number of steps to ensure that they did not do things that they knew would be taken up and publicised by activists. I am thus extremely grateful for the efforts of those that have fought before me to make Malaysia a more just and secure place for its citizens.

It is impossible to endure an experience such as mine without having one’s fears and discomfort increased, even in one’s own homeland.

The true mark of human strength however is the manner in which we deal with these fears.

I have chosen not to let my fears overcome me, and as a member of KeADILan and other activist groups, I have instead chosen to draw inspiration from those who have walked these paths before me and continue refusing to spare any effort whatsoever in our ongoing endeavours to uphold justice for all throughout the homeland we love.


Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest, most sincerely heartfelt thanks to every single individual and organisation who voiced their support for me throughout this difficult episode. I know this was especially difficult for all of my family and my girlfriend Soon Li Tsin, but despite their pain, they pulled through in every way imaginable to provide me every strength I needed to overcome.

I am not exaggerating in the least when I say the truly touching support I received carried me through the entire ordeal. To all my guardian angles, once again, thank you truly.

Nathaniel Tan


For the Malay version of his statement please visit Nat’s website at 


  1. Noscere says:

    I like the OSA +B lock on the bottom of your post, Re the comment you put on my Nat Tan is Free post, although I would love to be at the meeting today I can n ot get there, I am in England and even if I were to leave to go to the meeting now by the time I get there it would be finished 😦
    I am relying on the posts, pictures and video`s of those who can make it, to keep me upto date… lolz

  2. cherwith says:

    yeah..its a cool thing, i got it from the other bloggers who are blogging about nat tan. The amount of solidarity and creativity that has spurned out of this issue is amazing. I’m in Malaysia but on the northern side, the island. So, Im pretty much left out of the real scene and like you rely on post,picture, videos from other blogs…only difference is im much closer and can be there in about 4 hours..hahha

  3. 8for8 says:

    Truly a fresh reminder of the Gestapo, where suspicion alone can be reason enough to subject someone to such an ordeal. In their hypocisy, the British taught malaysia well to create all the required ‘tools’ for use in repression of all manners of dissent. Long live freedom of speech & expression!!

  4. cherwith says:

    That is so true. Sometimes I really wonder, we Malaysian harp about how we were subjected to the rule of others and for the last 50 years we have had our independence but the real question is are we truly independent? We inherit a lot of the features of the British some to the great advantages of the government rather than for the people. The worse of it all is the divide and rule which continues to be practices till this day. How is there to be unity if such practices still remain, if we are still truly divided by race.. malaysia has learned well from the British rule whether for the benefit of the nation itself is a whole different question altogether!

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