A TALE OF TWO GROUPS

One rev­els in foot­ball glory, an­other re­mem­bers an or­deal

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is Kedah NST bureau chief

IT was yet an­other glo­ri­ous day for Keda­hans as they gath­ered at the Sul­tan Ab­dul Halim Air­port on Sun­day to greet their Red Ea­gle he­roes. It was an elec­tri­fy­ing mo­ment for the crowd when the play­ers stepped out from the ar­rival hall with the FA Cup. The last time time Kedah lifted the cup was nine years ago.

The night be­fore, Kedah foot­ball fans “painted” half of Shah Alam Sta­dium in Se­lan­gor in red, green and yel­low.

The Raja Muda of Kedah, Tan Sri Tunku Salle­hud­din Sul­tan Badlishah, Tunku Lak­samana Kedah Tan Sri Tunku Ab­dul Hamid Thani Sul­tan Badlishah and Tunku Pan­glima Be­sar Kedah Tunku Pu­teri Intan Sha­fi­naz joined the crowd at the 80,000-ca­pac­ity sta­dium.

The royal fam­ily, ac­com­pa­nied by Men­teri Be­sar Datuk Seri Ah­mad Bashah Md Ha­ni­pah were in ju­bi­lant mood as they con­grat­u­lated the squad who walked up to the stage to re­ceive the pres­ti­gious cup.

Roy­alty and foot­ball are the two strong­est forces that unite the state’s mul­tira­cial so­ci­ety where the Malays form the ma­jor­ity and live in har­mony with the Chi­nese, In­dian and Si­amese eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

Keda­hans from all walks of life cel­e­brated the Red Ea­gle’s suc­cess in bring­ing home the third cup six months af­ter clinch­ing the Malaysia Cup and the Char­ity Shield.

It was a dif­fer­ent story, how­ever, for a group of some 300 Ro­hingya refugees as they gath­ered in Pokok Sena on Sun­day for the sec­ond an­niver­sary of the Wang Kelian Memo­rial.

The mood was som­bre as the Ro­hingya com­mu­nity in Kedah and Pe­nang re­cited prayers for the 153 vic­tims of the Wang Kelian hu­man traf­fick­ing camps in Perlis two years ago.

Faisal Is­lam Mo­ham­mad Kas­sim, one of the vic­tims held at the camp for ransom, said the emo­tional scars that he car­ried were far more painful than the phys­i­cal scars on his body.

He shared his story of how the vic­tims were tor­tured, made to stand all day and bru­tally beaten for merely ask­ing for food while the women were used as sex toys by the syndicate mem­bers.

Faisal wit­nessed the vic­tims, in­clud­ing moth­ers and chil­dren, die due to mal­nu­tri­tion and their bod­ies were sim­ply dis­carded in holes at the makeshift camps.

If the de­tainees’ fam­i­lies failed to raise enough money to se­cure their re­lease, their lives had no value to the cap­tors. They were ei­ther beaten to death or left to die due to mal­nu­tri­tion.

The syn­di­cates had promised the vic­tims a se­cure pas­sage to Malaysia, In­done­sia and Thai­land at RM6,000 per head.

The vic­tims, who were des­per­ate to flee the atroc­i­ties and per­se­cu­tion in their own land in Myan­mar, trusted the syn­di­cates with their lives, only to end up in camps built in the mid­dle of the jun­gle be­tween the Malaysi­aThai­land bor­der for ransom.

While the ceme­tery in Kam­pung Kepala Ben­dang, Pokok Sena will re­main as a grue­some re­minder of the hu­man traf­fick­ing syn­di­cates, the Ro­hingya are still liv­ing as “refugees” in their home­land in Rakhine state.

The Myan­mar gov­ern­ment has cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied al­le­ga­tions that its army is sup­port­ing eth­nic cleans­ing of the Rakhine com­mu­nity, which left hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ro­hingyas flee­ing the coun­try in the past 10 years.

Myan­mar has claimed that they are il­le­gal im­mi­grants from neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh.

Mohd Noor Abu Bakar, who fled the coun­try in 1984 fol­low­ing a crack­down by the au­thor­i­ties, chal­lenged the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment to ex­plain the pres­ence of Ro­hingyas who worked in the civil ser­vice for over three decades.

The chair­man of the Kedah chap­ter of the Myan­mar Ro­hingya Eth­nic Hu­man Rights Or­gan­i­sa­tion claimed that the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment was work­ing to flush the Ro­hingyas out of the coun­try.

He is grate­ful to Malaysia, the Kedah gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple for giv­ing them refuge. Mohd Noor, 50, har­bours hope that one day, he will be able to re­turn to Myan­mar so that he can die and be laid to rest in his home­land, and he is not the only one.

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