A TALE OF TWO GROUPS
One revels in football glory, another remembers an ordeal
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.