Chillies, burns: M'sia welfare home operator jailed for abusing teen with Down syndrome
KUALA LUMPUR – A Sessions Court in Malaysia on Wednesday sentenced Siti Bainun Ahd Razali to 12 years in jail after finding her guilty of negligence and of abusing a teen with Down syndrome named “Bella”.
Sessions Court Judge Izralizam Sanusi sentenced Siti Bainun to 10 years in jail for the first charge involving negligence.
For the second charge involving abuse, Siti Bainun was sentenced to 12 years in jail.
“Both (jail terms) are to run concurrently from the date of sentencing,” said Judge Izralizam.
Siti Bainun’s lawyer Mohammad Farhan Maaruf had asked for a minimal sentence, saying his client has an elderly mother to take care of.
He said Siti Bainun, 31, is now self-employed and takes orders for cakes that she bakes with her sister.
Mr Mohammad Farhan said Siti Bainun had never missed a court date without reason and asked the court not to impose imprisonment.
“A long prison time would not punish the accused, but it would punish her mother, who is dependent on her,” he said.
“We also believe, if the accused is imprisoned, our current prison facility could not cater for a person of her accord, of her physical being,” he added, citing Siti Bainun’s health conditions.
He said the court’s finding has shown that justice has been served and suggested that prison time could be replaced with a fine instead.
But Deputy Public Prosecutor Zahida Zakaria pushed for a heavy sentence, saying the full weight of the law should come down on those who deliberately cause harm to a child.
She said there were burn wounds and multiple scars almost all over Bella’s body.
“This was physical pain inflicted on Bella… Not only this pain was permanent on her body. She was also inflicted with emotional pain,” she said.
The prosecutor said the court must consider the interest of the public more than the accused.
Siti Bainun abused the trust given to her by neglecting and abusing Bella, negating the fact that she was a child rights activist and a first-time offender.
Court records showed that Siti Bainun, who ran the welfare home Rumah Bonda, had once held down Bella’s chin and force-fed her fried rice mixed with lots of chillies.
Bella was 13 at the time. Her story went viral on social media after someone revealed that she was found with burn marks on her chest, hands, neck and thighs, on top of several other injuries.
Ms Suhana Zam, 40, a legal research officer, testified that she saw Siti Bainun feed Bella a meal that had more chilli in it than rice.
“Bella was standing, facing Siti Bainun in front of the refrigerator, and there was a wooden bench there. I saw Bainun put a plate of fried rice and a lot of cut chilli, much more than the fried rice,” said Ms Suhana.
“She (Siti Bainun) mixed the fried rice. She held Bella’s chin and forced the girl to eat it. Bella refused but was forced to eat,” Ms Suhana told the court.
In previous proceedings, Rumah Bonda resident Yasmin Nahar Mahmood, 18, told the court that Siti Bainun had once fed Bella a pot of rice mixed with vinegar, turmeric, salt, soy sauce, chilli and chilli flakes, as well as rotten fried chicken during the fasting month.
Ms Suhana also said that when she went to Siti Bainun’s house on June 13, 2021, she saw a palm-sized bruise on the right side of Bella’s face. - THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK