Wednesday, April 25, 2007

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Listening to: The Concretes - In Colour


As we Malaysians have heard, five-year old Muhammad “Yin” Nazrin who disappeared after wandering away in a Kuala Lumpur shopping complex, has been reunited with his family. Old news, as this happened weeks ago. While his parents were busy shopping, that little brat ran off and got lost in the huge crowd of shoppers that normally plague KL.

A Burmese couple found the kid and being unable to find his parents (duh!) among the streets of KL, took him back to their home in Sentul. It didn’t help that there’s a language barrier between them and a 5-year old kid who has the vocab of… well… er… a 5-year old with ADHD.

Now, unlike many Malaysians who have the convenience of media access or… can actually read, Mr. and Mrs. Abdul Rahman were illiterate and impoverished Burmese Rohingya refugees. Having fled the Burmese military regime, they fled to Malaysia and settled down in Sentul, the Harlem of Kuala Lumpur. No gunshots, just the slashing sounds of parangs and machetes.

Living in poverty with their five own children, their shack had no television, no radio, and of course… no Nintendo where Yin can hammer away on Mario Kart. So Mr. & Mrs. Abdul Rahman were totally unaware, or so they claimed… that the whole nation is out looking for that kid. Yin lived with the family in that slum for over a week. Oh yea, his head was also shaved bald.

The Burma-Shave treatment, I guess.

Only a week later, the couple saw a 'Missing' poster for Yin, one of many that had been plastered around the city. Realizing this, according to their story, they called the authorities.

Alls well, ends well... Yin was reunited with his family. And Mr. and Mrs. Abdul Rahman would get the thousands of ringgit in reward money for their deed, a hefty sum that'll greatly ease the burden of poverty and squalor they have to deal with daily. Unfortunately, that's only for Yin's family. For the Burmese couple, they would see none of the reward money that had been promised. Even worse, they were arrested by the cops on suspicion that they kidnapped the child. Their children were sent for DNA testing to see if they were actually theirs or collected from the street... like Yin. As for the slum community in Sentul where they lived, well... its gonna be demolished.

And the media went into another full feeding frenzy, this time speculating that the Burmese couple were part of a kidnapping ring that abducted children to be used as beggars. Amongst the many tabloids & newspapers ranting and raving about kidnapping gangs and those dodgy dark-skinned foreigners out to eat your young, local daily Utusan Melayu whipped up an editorial about begging syndicates that used children and somehow, that was related to Yin's case.

Eventually, the couple were freed after the cops were satisfied that no crime was committed. For their good deed in returning a missing child, Mr. and Mrs. Abdul Rahman had spent a few days in jail and were torn to shreds by a moral panic stirred up by the press. Little apology (if any at all), was offered for the trial-by-media they had to face.

I wonder if Michael Chong will now give them their two thousand ringgit?

The Burmese couple have been reunited with their children, but now they and their fellow Rohingya villagers might face homelessness by future demolition of their settlement.

Some reward for a good deed...

And in future, we should all remember the mantra...

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