Published: 23 April 2022
1. A very good morning to everyone here. It is my pleasure to be here with you today.
2. First and foremost, I would like to thank Mr Khairunan Ali, Chairman, Harun Ghani Education Fund (HGEF). I would also like to thank Ms Haslinda Putri, Honorary Secretary, HGEF, for organising this event.
3. I would also like to thank Mr Heikal Yusope, Vice President, Business Development and Branding of Kowabunga! Global, who gave a very good and engaging talk.
4. Taking control of our lives, despite our circumstances and the obstacles we face, is a message which resonates strongly with me. And though we may feel alone at times, we need to remember there is a supportive community that we can turn to in times of need. Just like today, I’m very happy and very touched to see so many stakeholders coming together, and so many volunteers who have put their hearts into this.
A Step Towards Normalcy
5. Although we were unable to organise any physical Pelita Hati events over the past two years due to COVID-19, we were still able to speak to some of the beneficiaries when we delivered hampers to their homes. Many of them shared heart-warming stories which had left a deep impression on me. I remember going to a few houses together with Ms Haslinda, and we had a good time chatting with the families.
6. I am pleased to see so many of you in person today, and I look forward to meeting you and hearing your stories later.
Family – The Reason for Repentance
7. In this holy month of Ramadan, I visited and broke fast with our loved ones who are serving their sentence in prison. I did this last year, and again this year.
8. Many shared with me that they missed their family, especially their children. They shared that they want to do better, not only for themselves, but also for their children and their loved ones. It is not easy for them, but I believe that with proper support and resolve, they can turn their lives around.
9. I would usually meet with different groups of inmates. I would meet those who are about to be released and those who still have many years to go in prison. I would also meet inmates who had committed different types of offences. For those who have been married and have families, including older inmates, I will always ask them what they miss most. They will always tell me, “family”. For some, they miss their children, and are motivated by their children. I also work closely with those who are pursuing their education in prison, and quite a number of them shared that they are motivated by their children, and at the same time, want to motivate their children out there. They want to show their children that “if dad can do it inside and study, at the age of 40 plus, 50 plus, my children out there can also do it”. They want the best for their children. And some, motivated by their children, have done very well. Some even did better than their children.
10. Last week, I met a group of young inmates and I wondered how I can connect with such young individuals. But when I asked them what they missed most, they shared with me they missed the moments when their parents showed them love. Every inmate that I met, they each have their soft spot, just like us. And that very soft spot is almost always their family. So, this is why family is an important part of this reintegration process.
11. We have organisations like HGEF and others who are helping to make this reintegration process smoother, and I hope that you will continue to participate in programmes like this, so you can be prepared when they come out. When they are in prison, they are in an environment of incarceration, and we do our best to get them prepared for life outside of prison. However, this separation has an effect on the process of communication, and some of the aspects of how a normal family can come together.
12. I’m happy that some of you will be getting laptops today. Why is this important? I have spoken to quite a number of families, whose loved ones are in prison. We give inmates tablets that they can access every day. Although the number of letters they send to you is limited, there is no limit to the number of letters you can send to them. A few inmates have shared with me that what keeps them going are the letters they receive from their family. They said your letters gave them hope, kept them connected and made it easier for them to go back to their families. Otherwise, they would find it very, very difficult during the process. So, please make full use of the laptops to send letters, and for your other needs as well – education and so forth.
13. The next thing I want to highlight, is that the cards that they have made for each of you represent their reflections, regrets and how much they would like to be reunited with you. I hope those cards will inspire you to persevere and do your very best in school, for your parents, your loved ones, and for yourself.
14. After their release, sometimes, we may get disappointed. They may not do something they had said they would do when they are released, they may change. Whenever I meet them, I will tell them that the test of their mettle is not when they are inside. Rather, the true test of their mettle is when they are released. I will say, you have to walk the talk of what you had said before you were released. That means, if you said that you want to be close to your family, then walk the talk, make it happen. It is not just what you said when you are in prison, when you are separated, but what you do when you are outside. When you are released, you walk the talk. We must continue to remind them, to get this message through to them.
15. In addition to that, what I also want you to do when they are released, is to get them connected to a suitable organisation. Because the journey is not just about you alone doing this. We have seen that those who are connected to organisations like HGEF, the Family and Inmates Through-care Assistance Haven (FITRAH), and other organisations, are more likely to stay out of prison for a longer time. So, do to get them on board, to help in the reintegration process.
16. Apart from the above, what is key is to understand them. Those who are in for drug-related offences, for example, may no longer be the child, husband or family member that they used to be, before they took drugs. They are not the same, so you cannot expect them to be the same. They are changed persons. So, this is something you have to recognise. Never expect them to be what they were, otherwise, you will get frustrated. Your acceptance is important.
17. I would like to give my sincere thanks to HGEF, for being so committed to this effort. The road to rehabilitation and reintegration is not easy. However, with support from organisations such as HGEF, our loved ones in prison are able to focus on their rehabilitation journey with the knowledge that their family is being taken care of. Once again, thank you HGEF for doing what you do.
18. Before I end, I hope that each of us will remember to offer compassion to our family, friends, and others in the community, and strive to be a blessing in the lives of our loved ones.
19. I wish everyone a blessed Ramadan. Thank you.