Monthly Archives: February 2013

Humanity and human rights!!??

Introduction:

In the midst of the recent political situation in Malaysia, there are a lot of postings on Facebook, a lot of them siding the opposition parties than the current government. Although I do not have a very strong view on the political arena in my country, I am silently protesting the current government by leaving the country to live in another country. I remember once a Hong Kong visitor questioned us why would we want to leave our own home country where we grew up and where our family and friends are and live in a foreign soil as a 2nd citizen. She doesn’t understand the predicament we face as a non-bumiputera in Malaysia.

So with all the recent unrest situation in Malaysia, be it the rampant petty thefts, breaks-ins, children and adults kidnaps, to life threatening and traumatising incidents such as murders and rapes to the latest of the Philippines military invasion to Sabah, this just reflects how effective the current government in administering and policing the country. I am not a political expert nor am I an avid fan of politics. Yet all these have sparked angers and to a lot of extent, patriotism of my fellow Malaysians.

Sometimes I wonder those postings of the incidents on Facebook are real. I was told that some of them aren’t, or perhaps some modifications werer made. However the following incident was based on a friend’s experience, his own real life experience. I am not trying to propogate any agenda, but I was shocked when I learnt about this.

The following incident was just a recap of an experience of a couple and I did not add or modify anything. I am just sharing what they have gone through and perhaps many others who may be suffering silently.

“Make a statement! Or arrest??!!

On that one particular morning sometime in January 2011, my friend, Mrs T, received a phone call from her Indonesian worker, who had a valid work permit, although not in Mrs T’s name, was arrested by Immigration Officers. The Indonesian worker was instructed by the Immigration Officers to contact her employer so she’d make her way to the work place immediately.

Mrs T and her husband, Mr T. went to the work place, and the officers told Mrs T that she would have to go to the Immigration Office to make a statement. Upon heaering this, Mr T volunteered to go on behalf of Mrs T as she would need to look after the work place whilst the officers needed to “take” her worker away. Note that not a word of “arrest” was mentioned. All they said was “ambik statement” (take statement). There was no explanation given by the immigration officers of what will entail after they were led to the office.

So Mr. T was instructed to line up with a few others with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front him and similarly a hand on his shoulder from the stranger lined up behind him. He was then paraded in the public in that kind of line up, as if he had done something wrong and arrested. What was missing were just the hand cuffs.

“A bar!!”

They arrived at the immigration department. Deep down everyone just wished to sign the statement quickly to get this done and over.

But what they saw upon entering the “office” was more than an office. He was stunned to see what was inside the “office”, and before he could register what it was, he was told to wait for the immigration officer, who was not available at that point of time. What he saw was a row of bars!!

After waited for few hours, finally they were told that the officer will not be back for the day. It was already 5 pm! He was overjoy thinking that is done for today. But before he realised what was going to happen, another officer unlocked a bar and he and few others were ushered and pushed in a 20 x 20 cell which was already occupied!

There were all types of nationalities. Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indonesian, Yemeni, Myanmar etc. The smell in the bar was unpleasant too. It was the smell of un-dried clothes. The lock-up was divided into concrete floor with a raised wooden platform and at the other end he could not help but noticed an open loo. No cover, no sink, no soap. The rest is just concrete.

Special treatment??!!

He started to worry. He thought that if the officer is not going to come back today and he is now locked up, the possibility of going home that night was very low.

He is an elderly, in his 70s. He has just done a major heart surgery and still on medication As everything happened too quickly, he didn’t bring the medicines with him. Remember, he volunteered to go to the immigration office to make a statement, but instead he was arrested and locked up.

He had no choice but to yell and ask the officer to let him call his family to bring the medicine. They knew that they have to oblige, otherwise any mishaps will bring unwanted media attentions.

Finally, his daughter arrived at the Immigration office with his medicines. But much to their dismay, the officers refused to let her daughter in as it was already past the office hours. His daughter had no choice but to “create a scene”, i.e. pretended to cry to attract attention, which she finally managed to catch the chief’s attention.

He was then explained and thankfully he is smart enough to allow his daughter to go in and give him the medicines. The chief also asked one of his officers to fulfill this elderly’s needs or requests for the night.

Sleeping time??

The elderly was lucky enough to be treated nicely. When the night comes, and time for bed, and when everyone was snoozing on their soft and springy mattress with pillows and bolsters, those who were unluckily locked up in this bar had nothing but just the cold floor or wooden platform. The platform is so small relatively to the number of people in the cell, so everyone had to take turn to sleep on it for 3 hours whilst the rest slept on the dirty and cold concrete floor. Once the time is up, they will be awaken abruptly, if they are lucky enough to be able to sleep, so that those who sleeps on the floor will have the privilege to sleep on the wooden platform.

Everyone was instructed to line up closely as if they are just a set of mummies or robots or worst, corpses, and each one’s legs touched the shoulders or head of the person who sleeps underneath them. There is no room to turn at all, or their legs will be on top of the face of the one underneath them. Could you imagine if yourself in such a condition? Could you still sleep soundly?

Every now and then throughout that night, the officer who was instructed to attend Mr T’s need would have a lookout on him. Whenever he saw the others around him got too close or left no space for him, he would instructed them to give him the space, at least 3 feet apart from him. He had his privilege because he was a nice elderly and didn’t create much troubles for him. But they also do not want any troubles.

What happened in the middle of the night??

In the middle night, there was another “arrest”. It was a group of scantily clad Chinese and Myanmar women with all sorts of dyed-hair colours. Apparently they were raided and arrested from massage parlours and accordingly they are all without a proper working permit.

They were asked to squat in a line in Malay, however some of them do not understand as they don’t speak the language. As a result, they failed to obey the instruction. To make them to follow the instruction, the officers forcefully squatted them. Some even stepped on their hands or feet.

Hygiene?? Humanity??

They were given a coupon each to  redeem their food. It is supposed to worth MRY20 but all they got was just rice, giblets and some runny curry. No fork or spoon provided and so everyone has to use their fingers to eat. Don’t forget that there is no soap to wash their hands after they have gone to toilet. So imagine that you have to eat using your fingers after pissing or shitting.

There is a water cooler right in front of the bars, however only 1 paper cup provided. Everyone in the bars are expected to share the cup and take turn to drink. So no one dares to touch the cup with their mouth.

Precioussssss …. behind the bars!

What would you think is the most  sought after and priceles commodity behind the bards? Let me give you some hint, don’t forget about the smell. Not just the smell of urine and faeces from the open loo, but those who have been there for weeks, without proper shower, clothes drying and laundry facilities.

When Mr T’s daughter came with the medicines, she has also brought a pair of undergarments and long pants for him to change. The long pants are to avoid any bugs and lice in the cell and undergarments, well for him to change. In this cell, he learnt that something as intimate as the undergarments are precious commodities. He didn’t realise that his undergarments were stolen until everyone was asked to to pick up all their belongings on the floor. Till today, he couldn’t locate them. Why would a pair of undergarments become such “precious”?? No, there was no Gollum in the bar.

Mr T found out from an Indonesian inmate, who slept just near him that night. Let us address him as Y. He was smelly as he was wearing the same clothes the day he was “arrested”. Every day, he is only able to wash his underwear during the shower time, just like everyone else in there. Everyone would have to take their clothes off, down to the undergarments leaving nothing to cover and exposing themselves while they are washing their underwear. There is no clothes line nor sun to dry the clothes and they have to wear it back almost immediately. Unless they don’t mind to let their genital hanging and expose to everyone in the cell. Would you rather have that or just wear the wet and smelly clothes?

How long have you been in the cell??

Like most of the foreigners in the cell, Y has been there fore almost a month. Mr T was curious why Y is not released. Apparently they were supposed to be deported back to their home country. They were supposed to have an air ticket to return. Yet they need to pay and they don’t have money. They were asked to request from their family or friends, but obviously if they took the risk to be an illegal immigrants, they wouldn’t have that kind of monies to buy air tickets.

Mr T pitied Y and asked him how much he would need to go back to his country on a boat. Y answered MYR50. The elderly thought to himself that he could easily sponsor him that.

Handover ceremony! !

Finally my friend was asked to see the director. He was told that he will be released. Upon hearing this, the elderly took the opportunity to enquire whether he could sponsor Y to go home. He wanted to give him MYR150 but the director told him that he could not give the monies directly to Y. Instead, he will announce to everyone in the bars that a kind-hearted Mr T was going to sponsor Y to go home. And so both Mr T and the director stood in front of everyone, announced and handed the 3 MYR50 ceremoniously to Y. But when Y wanted to take the monies, the director took the notes away from him immediately.

HOME!!

The elderly could finally leave the bars. There is nothing much that Mr T could do now but to pray silently that Y will be sent home soon.

Few days later, he managed to find out that the Y was also sent home shortly after he was released.

Human Rights?? Humanity??

This incident reflects the basic human rights we enjoy now.  Mr T was not even judged or convicted for any wrong doings, yet he was imprisoned without any trials. Was that right? And what about the conditions behind the bar?

In Europe, even the inmates have their own basic human rights. I recalled a news I read on newspaper sometime ago, the  inmates in Europe are able to enjoy normal facilities such as TV subscribed to Sports Channels, arrangement for spouse every now and then to stay a night in the cell so that they can enjoy the basic human relationship, etc.

Shall I compare with developed countries? (Please don’t come and hound me with Listen! Listen! Listen!! Ms Listen!! ) But then again, is human right a privilege only to those in developed countries?

I am not an expert in the law and regulation nor what is legally and politically right. I could not assertively conclude whether there are any non-law abiding actions took place throughout the incident. The Immigration Act vested the immigration officers the authority to search, interrogate and even imprison, fine or even whip anyone they deemed as a suspect who may have contravened the regulation. Does that sound right?

I am just merely sharing an experience of a friend who was unluckily arrested and spent his virgin night behind the bar and of what he learnt and observed that night.

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Santa Grand Lai Chun Yuen Hotel in Chinatown Singapore

When my husband found this hotel I was sceptical as the Chinese name Lai Chun Yuen resonance the olden times brothel house in China. He showed me the pictures on Trip Advisor and I was slightly convinced. Obviously it looks much better than most of Hotel 81 in Singapore although I haven’t stayed in one before. In Asia any hotels on the old wooden shoplots are normally not hotels but motels. And it tends to be cheap and dirty or worn out. I agreed to Lai Chun Yuen due to the fact that it is relatively new.

I also didn’t realise it was quite expensive. For a £70 a night in Singapore is probably considered mid range. Perhaps a 3-star rating hotel.

The location is just a street away from the Chinatown MRT station and there are 2 entrances to the hotel. The rear door is facing a row of hawker stalls. Along the shops where the front door is there is a dessert shop which were crowded when we saw it yesterday.

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The first thing we saw when we entered from the front door is a yellow costume once worn by China emperors framed and hang up for display. It does give me an eerie feeling as everything else is red. Turning a corner we saw the front desk for check in and the lounge is tastefully decorated without losing its original theatre built up. Obviously there are no theatre chairs anymore.

Despite the impressive decoration I was a bit disappointed with the service given by the front desk. It was not that they have been rude but lacking the hospitality required for hotels and front desk in my opinion would deduct some points.

After an approximately 10 mins we were issued our room card key and were led by another staff to our room. We were given a room on the highest level which is on the 2nd floor. In most of Europe hotels there won’t be any escalators or lifts but just stairs. I am grateful that there are escalators as it would be even more difficult if we had more luggage.

Along the escalators there are pictures of different opera characters and hats of the characters. Information about the history of Chinese Opera is also written in a few boards so that as the hotel guests walk towards their room could understand and perhaps appreciate this long historical art a bit better.

Without my realisation we reached our room. Aside from the ordinary room number it is also marked with “Scholar” on the door.

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We waved the card to enter the room but I was gutted to see the size of the room. There are 2 single beds arranged in a L shape with the toilet in between. It is probably just 200 sq meter. Then again hotels in Singapore is expensive and you won’t get the size as in Malaysia or China.

The next morning we went for breakfast at the little cafe turned pub at night. We were warmly greeted by a Singaporean Chinese Aunty and asked whether we would like to have coffee or tea. Probably the best customer service I had in Singapore. The breakfast is just normal English breakfast minus the hash brown, black pudding and mushroom.

All in all I did enjoy my one night stay in this hotel.

The following pictures are some of the explanation about the chinese opera hung on the walls throughout the hotel.

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IMG_1783 IMG_1784

http://www.santagrandhotels.com/chinatown.asp

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Road trip from north to south Malaysia

It has been awhile since I made any road trip from my hometown, Ipoh to Johor and Singapore. In fact ever since I migrated to London I hardly do any road trips whenever I am back to Malaysia.

It was more than 20 years ago when I first did a road trip to Johor and Singapore. My father worked in Johor after spending few years in the States as an illegal immigrant. Back in 80s “jump aeroplane” as it was widely known amongst those who had made it to few of the popular countries such as US, UK, Japan, etc as an illegal immigrant seemed to be the only way out. I was young but apprehended the idea when mom and dad told us that he will be going to New York. I had no idea how far that was but knew that I won’t be able to see him for a very long time.

During those few years he was working in The States, I remembered my uncle would cycled to our house in the middle of the night to alert us when my father called back. Yes telephone was almost a luxury and not a necessity back then. As it was not as affordable we would opt for not having it than now when almost everyone is either the camp of iPhone or Samsung. This didn’t last long as mom finally decided that a phone was a must for my father to contact us.

Fast forward to 5 years later my father finally had to come back as his passport was expiring. He however did not made it home but had to work and stay in Johor. At least we could go and visit him with an overnight bus ride. It wasn’t a joy as I recalled I would woke up several times during the journey as the buses were normally swayed ferociously from left to right and at times forward.

I no longer go to Singapore or Johor by bus anymore. In fact this is my first trip by car. And I have been to Singapore for few times now. But no trips could compete to those yesteryears rides with my mom and brothers and sister.

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