- Published on Thursday, 02 July 2015 09:28
Does the name Maznah Ismail ring a bell? Or perhaps you are more familiar with the name Mona Fandey?
No stranger to the media, Mona’s face was published all over the headlines since 1993 with many foul claims of the woman that was executed in November 2001.
But was she really what the reports claimed her to be?
To uncover the truth, Malaysian Digest tracked the prison warden who was on duty at Mona’s cell in the Kajang Women’s prison on the last days of her life.
A Prison Warden Finds A Friend In Mona
An exclusive interview with prison officer, Sergeant Azizah, hopes to dispel untrue interpretations and open up to Malaysians the true identity of the woman whom so many have come to fear.
The now 53-year-old woman revealed insights, which she felt was a sweet memory for her during the 30 years as a prison warden.
“I was on holiday at that time, but I had been earlier informed that Mona would be placed in the cell under my care in her last days. Her case was very much hyped about.
“I was terrified knowing I had to face Mona, I even asked for the ustaz to prepare some holy water.
“Mona’s last cell was the first in the row, which meant she would be the first person I had to pass through.
“On my first day back at work after my holidays, I heard a voice giving a ‘salam’ (greeting) the minute I walked in.
“I knew it came from Mona but I simply ignored her. Mona greeted me again the following days but I still ignored her.
“On the fourth day, I finally responded. Mona then told me she liked me the most among the other prison staff. When I asked her why? She said that it was intuition.
“Never did it cross my mind that a simple ‘salam’ would make me find a friend in Mona,” she claimed.
Azizah recalls how Mona was exceptionally fond of having conversations, and that there was never a dull moment in her company − telling stories about her children, ex-husband, her then husband, and sharing recipes among others.
She also shared that she was the only person that dared make eye contact with the woman who was often associated with 'dark powers', and that most staff would avoid tending to Mona fearing the ‘black magic’ she possesses.
“I call her ‘Aunty’ while she calls me ‘Miss Jah’. Believe it or not, Mona is actually a woman who consummates her prayers five times a day.
“That’s not all, she would not leave out the ‘sunat’ and ‘wirid’ prayers (optional prayers) and I hear her reciting the Quran on a daily basis, that even I personally feel impressed.
“I even asked her to recite the ‘wirid’ aloud just in case she recites it wrongly. I often hear Mona repeatedly saying ‘Subhanallah’ (Glorious is God).
“She is a very friendly woman who speaks politely and never once spoke ill of anyone. There were many prison staff who bad-mouthed Mona, yet she remained patient and positive, and never once retaliated.
“Mona loved sharing recipes with me. She said she likes putting ‘pandan’ leaves in her cooking because it would add a nice fragrant to the dishes. All I saw is a loving and sincere woman,” Azizah adds.
Azizah recollects stumbling upon articles in the newspapers of unbelievable stories about Mona − floating in her prison cell, reciting the first chapter of the surah in the Quran, Al-Fatihah (The Opener) in reverse, transporting herself out of her prison cell and on to Chow Kit street, among others.
To clarify these mystical stories, Azizah would ask Mona about the stories that she had read.
“I asked Mona to float as the report in the newspaper suggested she could do so. She would tell me ‘Are you crazy? I cannot make myself float!’
“I also asked her to recite the surah Al-Fatihah in reverse. She replied, ‘How is that possible when it is even difficult for me to say ‘Bismillah’ (In the Name of God) in reverse.’
“The most interesting part was when I asked if she really did transport herself to Chow Kit street, she answered: ‘Why would I go to Chow Kit if I could transport myself? I would rather go home and not live in a prison cell.’
“She was right for a fact. Why would anyone who possess powers to escape a prison cell go to Chow Kit street anyway?,” Azizah amusingly chuckled.
The Faithful Wife
Azizah turned silent for a moment before resuming her story. She then admits that there is a story behind the murder case that the public is not aware of, aside for maybe only those who were involved in the trial.
She confesses that Mona had often convinced her about actual events that occurred on the day the politician was found murdered, which she found hard to believe, at first.
However, in due course Mona succeeded in proving to Azizah that she was not lying as the facts she laid out in prison were consistent with the ones she laid out in court. There were no aversions in her story, neither her facts.
Mona was not the prime suspect in the murder trial but the third accused person (OKT3), while the real perpetrator of the case was Mona’s husband, Affandi (OKT1) and his personal assistant, Juraimi (OKT2).
In fact, on the day of the incident, Mona merely received instructions to pick flowers for the flower bath ritual of the victim.
Azizah went on to explain further details of the ritual that led to the tragic murder, which will not be disclosed with due respect to both families.
She described how Juraimi detailed the scene in court, and spoke of how Mona remained calm throughout the trial.
“Throughout the entire trial, Mona requested for only me to accompany her, and not the other officers.
“Because of this, my right hand was handcuffed with Mona’s left hand everywhere she went. Mona has pleaded not guilty in the murder trial and the court granted her release.
“But Mona had given an ultimatum should she be granted release, she pleaded for her husband, Affandi to also be released. And if he were to be hanged, she would rather share the same fate as him.
“Mona’s advocates had also persuaded her to accept the release, but she refused without the joint release. That was her choice.
“She chose to be with her husband. I witnessed how Mona was a very good wife who truly loved Affandi. To be honest, for as long as I took care of her in that cell, there was nothing bad about her.
“I remember one story where the person who bathe Mona's corpse after her sentence said she did not find a single flaw on her body and that it was in excellent condition. Her body was clean and easy to manage,” she relayed the incident to us.
Azizah also recounts an interesting fact whereby Mona’s ex-husband, who also happens to be a policeman, never missed attending a single trial of his ex-wife, which led her to approach him.
His touching remark of Mona was: “Mona does not even have the heart to kill an ant. She even cries when weeding a fish, what more kill a man?”
Mona’s children who were always present in court, in support of their mother also claimed, they knew her best and who she truly was. Azizah said that proved how Mona was a good mother who succeeded in bringing up her children with high morals and values.
They remained faithful to their mother until her death sentence, and have swallowed every stigma the society had against her until this very day.
A wife who sacrificed her freedom for the love of her husband, Mona chose to be with Affandi till death did them part.
Time To Change Perceptions
“I’m weirded out by how people who never were in prison, never met or managed Mona while she was imprisoned, talk about her like they know of her?
“How could others know so much of her when I was the one that pulled my chair to sit next to her, and chat with her while she was in her cell?
“One thing that saddens me the most, was the day before her death sentence, I saw her being led down from the top floor. She looked very cheerful and had a huge smile on her face. I asked her ‘Where are you going aunty?’
“She replied ‘I’m going shopping!’ when she was actually heading to the prison next door to see Affandi. She kept smiling even though she was handcuffed, and she looked at me right until she reached the corner of the building.
“I had forgotten that it was Thursday, and the day after would be Friday, which meant it would be the day where Muslim prisoners would be hanged in the morning. One of my friends who was also close to Mona reminded me that she would be sentenced the next day.
“I sat down and cried non-stop. That was the last time I saw Mona, and right until now, her smile still lingers in my mind and I will never forget it.
“If only I had known that she would be hanged, there is one thing that I would want to do. I want to hug her. I knew Mona Fandey. I really miss her,” Azizah confesses with tears in her eyes.
Azizah claims that Mona was unlike any other prisoners. Her sincerity can really be felt and her cheekiness, when teasing the prison staff never fails to make Azizah reminisce of her with a smile.
To this day, Azizah still keeps fond memories of the woman who is 'feared' by Malaysians for supposedly being the most ruthless murderer in Malaysia.
Although Mona’s life has ended, she still holds a special place in Azizah’s heart, for the Almighty knows best in passing the right sentence for a person as sincere as Maznah Ismail.
It is a fact that all human beings are not spared from making mistakes in their lifetime, and humans are not the judge of ones sins or rewards.
Quoting Ustaz Abdul Rasyid who has experienced three decades of managing religious affairs for prisoners:
“Thank God Mona fluently recited the translations. She knew it was her time to go. She has accepted her punishment in this present life. Her punishment with God, let Him receive her repentance, for all we know, maybe she's far better than all of us.” - The National Archives: Mona Fandey.
So, would this article change your stigma of a woman named Mona Fandey? Or are you still convinced that she is the ruthless murderer people speak of? The choice is yours.