I have just finished evaluating a manuscript which was given to me by a “literary agent” friend, Mohd Halimi Abdul Hamid, less than a month ago. The manuscript immediately captured my attention not only because it reads like a memoir which is one of my favourite genre but also because I know the writer and I had once travelled with him in 2001 to a war-zone Kashmir for a humanitarian mission.
And in February 2003, he was detained by the Malaysian police under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for allegedly being involved in a global terrorist network. That shocked many people who knew him personally including me who sees him as very humble, kind, gentle and honest. But as a retired lieutenant-colonel who had earlier served with the UN peacekeepers in Bosnia, he is smart and has a strong physical and moral courage.
There was never any slightest indication that he was a criminal or had any link with terrorist groups. Yet, he had been named by the Security Council Committee [established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and Associated Individuals and Entities] as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” along with others such as Nordin Mohd Top, Wan Min Wan Mat, Mukhlis Yunos, Zaini Zakaria, Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, Agus Dwikarna, Huda bin Abdul Haq, and Azahari Husin.
It is unbelievable that he could have been “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of Jemaah Islamiyah” as written in the charge sheet.
This manuscript is his personal account, a memoir remembering the tragedies of his more that three years ISA detention, the chilling and heartbreaking experience in the war-torn Bosnia, and his involvement in voluntarily organisations. It is a fascinating narrative as well as timely and important.
However, it has an obvious weakness that it is not so much a memoir as a commentary or a monologue. It would have had a much more impact had the writer made the narrative of what happened his primary focus and integrate his commentary and monologue into the story.
Since it is still a draft, I hope to see the improvement and to be able to recommend to others when it comes out of the press.