Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bonded Indian labourers in bahau - Latest case(Malaysiakini)

Teens escape the clutches of tyranny (Malaysiakini)
Teens escape the clutches of tyranny

Nineteen-year-old R Priya, given a new lease on life after being a slave for 14 years, is still apprehensive about her future.

Priya and her younger brother Guna, 16, who were entrusted to their guardians by their single parent, were put to hard labour when they were five and three respectively.

Their now deceased mother, unable to care for them, had little choice but to given them away at a tender age.

In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini, the siblings related the story of their “escape” from the clutches of their guardians in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan.

They were rescued by DAP member D Kamache from a friend’s home in Karak, Pahang where they had been taking refuge.

“Fourteen years ago my mother had left me with the couple and my nightmare had not ended since that day,” said Priya, when asked to describe her life with her guardians.

bahau child abuse 060110 priya Priya (right) was given daily household chores and when she became more capable was put to work at a small-scale glove factory owned by her guardians.”In the mornings we had to finish work at the factory and in the evenings, I had to finish the chores at home. Only then was I allowed to eat anything.

“From young I was forced to do housework all day long and beaten up if I refused to do as I was told,” she said, adding that both of them were not paid.

Priya and her brother Guna are illiterate and only able to converse in Tamil.

“My brother and I did not go school and although I asked them, I was not allowed to attend school,” said Priya.

Unable to hold back her tears, Priya blurted out that all she ever wanted was care and love from her caretakers.

Neighbours would sometimes reprimand her caretakers for beating and using abusive language on them, but that’s as far as they would go as Priya claimed that her guardians were ‘influential’ people.

“Last year, when I attempted to run away, I was caught. Once we got back to the house I was tied up in the bathroom and beaten with rattan cane,” she said.

She suffered a bloody head injury on that occasion, and instead of taking her to the hospital for treatment, her guardian placed coffee powder on the wound.

Priya said that she was never let out of their sight after the incident and kept confined to the home ever since.

Took rat-poison to escape torture

“I could not take it any more and I attempted suicide by consuming rat-poison to escape their torture,” she said tearfully.

However, Priya said she was forbidden to relate the incident to the doctors who had treated her and was forced to say that she had accidently consumed the lethal chemical.

bahau child abuse 060110 gunaHer brother Guna (left) was more fortunate. He escaped on Dec 11 with the help of a friend by hitch-hiking on a lorry travelling from Bahau to Bentong.

Guna, then with some help from some locals found his way to Kamache and recounted the torture both the siblings had undergone.

Kamache immediately lodged a police report in Bahau and Priya was brought to the police station with their guardians on Dec 28.

“When she came in and the cops were questioning her (Priya), she said everything was all right and their were well cared for by their guardians but it didn’t look like she was telling the truth,” said Kamache.

“I insisted that the police interrogate her in another room and assured her that she did not have to fear them and that she will not be sent back with them if she told the truth,” she said.

Only then did Priya relate her 14-year misery to the cops, according to Kamache. The guardian was then remanded for alleged child abuse and for not paying their wages.

A check with the police station in Bahau, revealed that the guardian had been released on police bail pending investigations.

According to the investigating officer, the police are still taking statements from Priya and Guna, as well as their custodians and neighbours.

Both teenagers are currently in the custody of Kamache as they have refused to be placed in the Welfare Department.

Priya, is now employed by a furniture outlet and is under the care of a family in Karak.

bahau child abuse 060110 kamacheMeanwhile, Kamache (right) has identified a foster home for Guna and is awaiting clearance from the Welfare Department.

“I want what is best for them… after the cruelty they have undergone, I just want to ensure that they are given a good life from now on,” said Kamache.

She also urged that the police complete their investigation soon as possible as there are other children under the custody of the same people.