PETALING JAYA: Time spent in prison, no matter how short, is life-changing. For Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, it led him to see things in a new light.
“That was one of the best things that has happened to me,” he said as he reminisced life behind bars.
Khir spent six months in prison, during which he not only witnessed the agony of being at the receiving end of the whip but also met some of society’s worst enemies.
His cell was next to a room where physical punishment was meted out and every Friday, he would hear the screams of prisoners with every stroke of the rotan.
“Those who had been whipped would turn up at my cell to seek treatment for their wounds,” the dentist-turned-politician added.
“Some even sought my advice.”
Khir also recalls meeting “all sorts of people” in Kajang Prison.
“I’ve made acquaintances with drug addicts, drug dealers, rapists ... you name it.”
The moments to look forward to were the monthly visits by his family, whom he said he really missed.
What Khir had in abundance while in prison was time.
“I had time to think things through, plenty of time to reflect (on my actions),” he said.
Just like former South African president Nelson Mandela, who spent the better part of his life as a political prisoner, Khir now believes that one does not truly know his nation until he has seen the inside of a jail cell.
He said he also came to the realisation that “something is wrong with the system in this country”.
“For instance, the way to eliminate corruption is to not only punish the person taking the bribe but also the one giving it.”
Rather than dwell on the past, he now wants to look ahead.
“I have repented for my wrongdoings and I have served the sentence.”
Perhaps to signal his seriousness to make a difference in his home state, Khir has already made a list of issues in Selangor that have to be addressed.
“One is the water issue, that has to be dealt with promptly.”
He said he now has the necessary experience to solve the people’s problems and he is confident that he will make a difference.
“But to achieve that, I must contest in the elections. Once you are in politics, there is no way out,” he added, emphasising his determination to reclaim his place on the political stage.