Rahman had his Bangladeshi news network around the Mutiara Damansara area to keep on high alert for Hasan Ali and my motorcycle. Rahman agreed to help me secure the return of my motorcycle. I gave him a spare set of keys. The plan was to wait for Hasan Ali to show up then steal the motorcycle back with the spare keys.
There was no sight or sound of Hasan Ali the next day around Mutiara Damansara. He continued to send me insults, taunts and threats throughout the day from new unknown numbers. I did not respond. I sat riveted to my mobile phone watching my office front door CCTV and checking in with Rahman on updates. It was impossible to do anything else. There was no peace of mind knowing Hasan Ali could move around with ease. I later heard from the maid that he came to our house sometime in the afternoon but the guard chased him away. I was surprised at that. I always thought our security guards were only for show. That he managed to chase Hasan Ali away found me having new found admiration for him!
Hasan Ali broke back into the apartment in the following day. According to Rahman, he returned late morning and ripped the entire grill frame from the wall and smashed the door handle to get in. He went into the apartment and has not emerged since. In that time, one of Rahman’s friends retrieved my motorcycle with the spare keys. It was back in my house before lunch. It was checkmate for Hasan Ali. I texted him.
“Hasan. I have my motorcycle back. You broke into my apartment. You committed another offence. I do not want to see, hear or smell you in this area anymore. You have two hours to leave and never come back. After that I am going to lodge a police report that you broke in. If you are still there, I will have you arrested. You disappointed me, Hasan. Good bye.”
Two hours later I went down to lodge the report and after walked over to the apartment with Rahman and his friends. The grill leaned stiffly against the wall. The door was slightly ajar. The handle hung limply, its insides dangling out. I pushed it open and called out. No one responded. The apartment was empty. Hasan Ali was gone. The mess he made remained.
I told Rahman and his friends they could stay at the apartment rent free for a year, and if he wanted to rent out one of the rooms, he could keep the rent. They gratefully accepted. I was grateful they accepted. I suggested they be prudent and stay away for a week just in case Hasan Ali returned. If he didn’t, it as unlikely he would, and the place was theirs.
They moved in a week later. On 28 March 2018 I obtained a court order withdrawing myself as Hasan Ali’s surety and revoking the bond of good behaviour. A warrant of arrest was issued for him. Since then I have not heard or seen Hasan Ali. He sent me a few threatening messages a day or two after he left but he went silent after that.
And has been silent ever since.
With Hasan Ali gone, so ended my second chance initiative.
If it ended in an anti-climax, then I am grateful it did. I had more than enough stress over those four days to last me a year. I did not expect him to comply so meekly in the end. My anger at Hasan Ali burned for a while more.
But it cooled after some time. From time to time I reflect on the entire episode to try and understand why Hasan Ali could not grasp the opportunity when it presented itself. Why did he self destruct like that? I sometimes tell the tale to hear from others what they think I could have done better, or differently.
The first thing I admit to is naivete and a simple mindedness to reform and rehabilitation. Present opportunity to someone of deserving circumstance and voila, I suppose I expected a miracle to happen. I treated him like a reasonable man on the MRT. The problem with that was Hasan Ali did not take the MRT. He was like a fish out of water with us, but I was hoping it was a matter of acclimatization. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.
I did not sufficiently consider and investigate Hasan Ali’s mental and psychological state. I did not consider how his experience in prison or domestic situation at home affected him. If there is one thing I can say about Hasan Ali, there was a sense that something about him inside was broken. We are all battered and bruised in some way or other, but his cracks ran deep. My mind would go back to he pictures he took of himself on the mobile phone. I think those a metaphor of the deterioration of his mental condition. The violence in his pictures mirrored the measure of his pain and suffering; further frustrated by his inability to express them articulately.
What perhaps he needed was to be psychologically examined and treated in addition to the opportunity he was given. I think anyone who has served some time in a lock up or prison should go for psychological counselling. I feel sure those that had a stint there suffer to some degree from post traumatic stress disorder, amongst other things. I have not been in prison or lock up but speaking to people with experiences of it, my sense of it is they suffered trauma. Even if they don’t admit it, we can see it in their eyes, their resigned smile, and forlorn look. Just because it is not expressed does not mean it is not felt.
Or perhaps freedom full was not what Hasan Ali needed.
Recently, there was a criminal trial my colleague, Asim, took over from me. It was a simple case I took on to do together with my pupils who were with me at the time. However, the trial took so long in the getting to that they had both completed their pupilage and were in practice by the time the trial came up. Asim was hungry for some criminal action and offered to take over.
It was an absurd case of drug possession. Our client was charged with five other persons for common intention to possess 0.4 grams of marijuana. I joked that his defence was there was not enough dope to go around for six people. Asim prepped for it only for the charge to be withdrawn. While waiting for the trial he struck up a conversation with the client’s father and learned our client was presently detained under a Prevention of Crime Act Order (“POCA Order”).
Asim detected procedural flaws with the POCA Order given the father’s narrative. He asked the father whether he wanted to challenge the POCA Order. To his surprise, both our client and the father refused. The father said his son was doing better there and seemed more calm. Our client, in turn, instructed us not to challenge the POCA Order. He said he preferred the structured life there, strict though it may be. That was quite unexpected.
Hasan Ali came to mind when Asim told me about it. Perhaps Hasan Ali needed rigidity and structure to his life, which we were unable to provide. Perhaps he needed something like the army or a job where he was kept physically occupied, and so out of mischief. Perhaps we need a system that tries to understand what each person, be it Hasan Ali or Asim’s client, needs to rehabilitate and reform instead of damning them to imprisonment, whipping and fines, and expect them to become better citizens from such treatment. I have long thought the sentencing and reformative processes in Malaysia in urgent and desperate need of creativity, reform and intent.
But that takes a lot of time, effort, and money. Nobody wants to spend that on a convict because a convicted person is written off for life, it doesn’t matter whether it’s his first or fifth offence. There is not enough money to buy them decent food, never mind mental health consultations.
The more I reflect on Hasan Ali, the more my anger substituted itself with melancholy and ideas. He was not a bad man; just a flawed one unable to get a grip of his own demons and transcend his circumstance. There are many like that in our society; it is simply a question of degree, context and reward. In fact, many in our society are rewarded for succumbing to their demons; they are in the media, rewarded and lauded for it, every day.
Despite how it came to pass between Hasan Ali and Me, I hope he has found some strength to hold tight to that bit of torn opportunity that remains in his grip. I hope he has found some peace within himself to create peace around and outside of himself. I hope he can find some good people to be with and find happiness or contentment in his life. At the end of the day, Hasan Ali and Me are not so different because despite all our differences, I’d like to think we still want the same things out of life.