PREBET Adam Jaafar owes his life to two key individuals.
If it was not for Leftenan Jeneral (R) Datuk Abdul Ghani Abdullah who persuaded Adam to surrender peacefully, he could have been killed during his standoff with the police on Oct 19, 1987. And if it was not for his defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah who convinced the judge he was not of sound mind when he ran amok, Adam might have been doomed for the gallows.
Abdul Ghani was the Assistant Commander for the Ground Forces Operation when he received news of a soldier going on a rampage in Chow Kit.
By the time he arrived near Wisma Sabaruddin where Adam had hid himself, sharp-shooters from the police force had positioned themselves around the vicinity.
Abdul Ghani tried using a loud hailer to persuade Adam to surrender but to no avail.
Undeterred, Abdul Ghani told Adam that his family and girlfriend wanted him to stop the madness. He volunteered to meet Adam alone.
He sent back an army officer who tried to follow him into Wisma Sabaruddin to protect him.
When he came face-to-face with Adam, he took off his bullet-proof vest to gain his trust. He addressed Adam as a Ranger.
“This act softened his heart and demeanour little by little. During the negotiation, Adam looked lost, scared and confused,” Abdul Ghani recalled in the book Konfesi Prebet Adam authored by Syahril A. Kadir.
Shafee, who is a former student of the Royal Military College (RMC), said he decided to take on Adam’s case pro bono after getting a call from a fellow lawyer and officer in the army reserve.
Shafee would spend more than RM100,000 on Adam’s case, including to hire experts like psychiatrist Tan Sri Dr M. Mahadevan to defend Adam.
“I took on Adam’s case as it was a big challenge and because he would have been hanged if I didn’t help him,” Shafee said, adding that as a former RMC student, he felt he had a responsibility to do what he could to help a military man in trouble.
One of the biggest mysteries about the case has been about the urban legend that linked the rampage to the then Sultan of Johor. This was not true.
How then, did the urban legend come about?
In the book, Adam in his own words claimed that he first heard of the allegation during a police interrogation that baffled him until now.
“Every time I was interrogated, it was always prefaced with ‘I pity you, Adam... it was because of the Agong that you’re in this state,” Adam recalled.
He did not identify who the interrogators were but explained that when he finally gave in and began nodding to the officers’ questions to implicate the royalty, the officers began theorising that his rampage was a conspiracy.
Adam claimed to the author of the book that the interrogators theorised that the conspiracy was orchestrated.
“They alleged that individuals were behind my action in a bid to divert public attention away from the problems that were plaguing the Malaysian leadership at that time,” the book quoted Adam as saying.
Asked about the conspiracy theory, Shafee said the matter was never raised in court by the prosecution. The defence also did not raise the issue.
Shafee said Adam could not remember a lot of what happened due to his state of mind at the time, and his defence partly relied on this.
“If we showed that Adam could remember such details about the interrogation, it could have prejudiced his defence.”
Shafee said that Adam’s case was investigated by the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and that his case also involved the Internal Security Act.
“It was not the CID who were asking questions about the conspiracy.
“It was as if there was an attempt to create a presumption and plant the idea in Adam’s head that his brother was supposedly killed by the then Sultan of Johor.
“The person or people who tried to put this idea in Adam’s head knew he already had a problem with his state of mind, so someone took advantage of this.”
Shafee said after Adam’s release from Tanjung Rambutan, Adam would look him up whenever he had a case in Penang.
He said there are lessons to be learnt from the case, including the importance of listening to both sides of the story.
“To me, Adam is a victim of circumstance; all he wanted was to be good soldier but he was bullied to such an extent.”