Saturday, April 30, 2011

Towards Lesser Crime In JB (6)

Singaporeans And Drug

Drug Bust: Five Filipino Women And Two Children Among Those Arrested
by Steven Chen

In a drug bust conducted on April 19 in Jalan Yahya Awal, Johor Bahru, police arrested five Filipino women, two Singaporean men and two children who are suspected to be involved in drug trafficking.
Police suspects that the Filipino women are being used as drug couriers by the two Singaporean men.
Investigation is still ongoing, said Zainuddin Yaakob, the south Johor Bahru police chief.
He said police found the drug suspected to be syabu with a street value of RM140,000 in a room of a house where the suspects are staying.
The Filipino women together with two children age two and a half and nine months do not have any identifications with them.
Zainuddin said the suspects will be investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952 and the Immigration Act 1959.
In another unrelated case, police arrested five men age between 16 to 88 including a woman who are suspected to be involved in trafficking drug in Felda Ulu Tebrau on April 20.
They suspects were arrested in two separate places.
The drug believe to be heroin worth RM24,000 was confiscated.
Three motorcycles and unspecified amount of cash were also confiscated during the two raids.
One of the suspects was tested drug positive and he has previous record of drug related cases.
The case will be investigated under Section 39B of the dangerous drug Act 1952, Zainuddin said.

Source: Komunitikini - April 29, 2011


In February 2011, Malaysian police arrested a 41-year old Singaporean suspected drug dealer. 

A drug laboratory in a rented house in Taman Sentosa was busted.
The 6.30pm police raid, they seized some RM 60,000 (US$19,800) worth of illicit drugs which included 1.8kg of ketamin, 71 ecstasy pills, five eramin pills and several drug processing Malaysia's southern state of Johore.

Police said that the suspected 41-year-old man was believed to have been distributing illicit drugs around the border city of Johor Bahru since six months ago.
They said the suspect had a clean criminal record.
Deputy OCPD Johor Bahru (South), Superintendant Abdul Samad Salleh said, two luxury cars worth about RM180,000, believed to be used for the drug trade, were also confiscated.

The suspect was tested positive for drugs.

Under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for drug trafficking, it carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.


S'porean Fined For Drug Offences

JOHOR BARU - A SINGAPOREAN businessman was fined RM17,500 (S$7,543) by a magistrate's court in Malaysia after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of drug offences and one count of identification fraud.
Tan Kim Chai, 54, pleaded guilty to possessing drugs such as 0.01g of nimetazepam and 0.16g of heroin, at a house in Taman Daya as well as at an apartment unit in the city on Jan 8 this year and Aug 24, 2008.
Magistrate Mazana Sinin fined Tan a total of RM15,700 for all the drug possession charges.
The accused was also fined a further RM3,000 for possessing a fake identification card at an apartment in the city at 5.20pm on Aug 24, 2008.
Magistrate Mazana set May 3 next year for trial and no bail was offered as the accused is facing similar charges in other courts.

Source: Straits Times - September 5, 2010 

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Maid - Reliable? Biodatas

Employers Burnt By Misleading Biodata

MANY employers have been the victims of unreliable biodata provided to them by maid agencies.
Gina D. 51, working mother of four.
In 2006, I applied for a maid who was supposed to be 35 years old as stated in the biodata provided to me. She could pass for 35 from her photograph as well. However, when I picked her up from the agency I was shocked at how much older she looked.
She was definitely in her 50s or even older. I later found out that her hair was actually almost completely white and she had been dyeing it black to cover it up.
When I confronted my agency, they said that maids sometimes lie about their age. They couldn’t have known, they said, as the Indonesian agencies just send them the biodatas and the photos and they distribute that to their customers who make a choice.
As I really needed the help and didn’t want to go through the process of applying for another one, I thought I’d give her a chance.
We tried for a year before I decided to send her back. Because of her age she was very difficult to work with and would answer back frequently.
I can’t confirm if they let her work with someone else but I think she must have left the country as I applied for a check-out memo after deciding to send her back.
Once you apply for a check-out memo, the maid has to leave the country by a certain date and if she hadn’t left I wouldn’t have been able to apply for a replacement maid (which I was able to do).
Stretching the truth: Some agencies falsify biodata to make maids appear bigger and stronger than they actually are.
Susan, homemaker, mother of three.
I once had an underaged maid who lied about her age. In her biodata she had listed down her age as 24 or 25 but when she arrived you could tell she was very young. It turned out that she was only 15 and she didn’t know anything! She told me that the agency asked her to lie about her age or she would not be allowed into the country. I held on to her for as long as I could but in the end she just couldn’t handle the work
Another problem is when they claim to have worked with children before but when they come you can tell that they actually haven’t. I’ve not really sent back many maids before their contract has ended.
The agencies never take responsibility anyway. You tend to just ignore what you read in the biodata because you end up having to train them all over again.
From the biodata you choose a maid based on if you’re happy with her face, and that she’s physically well or can be at home alone and take care of dogs. The agencies are not going to bother checking either if they can actually do what they say.
Once when I was living with my mother-in-law, we had a maid who was three months pregnant when she arrived! We actually confronted the agency about it but they said they weren’t responsible as the maids are supposed to undergo a screening in Indonesia.
I think employers are victims in the sense that this maid had worked for my mother-in-law less than a year, and they said they’d give her another maid but she still had to pay all over again because the local agency wasn’t liable.
CG, KL, working mother of one.
My husband worked in Indonesia for a long time and from what he knew and from what people have told us, we didn’t want to employ a maid from this particular region of Indonesia as they are known to be aggressive. We made sure our agency knew that.
I picked my maid from all the biodata given to me because she fulfilled certain criteria and had completed her Form 5.
When she showed up, however, it turned out that she was from that region we weren’t keen on!
Also despite her biodata saying otherwise, she couldn’t cook. She had a horrible attitude – she was always falling ill and waking up late, probably because she was using the phone till late at night.
So after five months of her behaviour, we decided to send her back. We dropped her off at the agency who later told us she was being sent back to Indonesia.
I never went into her room as I respected her privacy, but when she left I had to. I found that she had been stealing things like money and had vandalised all my antique furniture in her room!
My agency never reimbursed us or even apologised.
Of course, there are agencies who now allow you to interview them (potential maids) over webcam but you can’t really trust that because it could be rehearsed.
I feel very violated and taken advantage of by that maid agency. I think it is the government’s fault really for never having put into place real procedures or ensuring that agencies’ standards are maintained.
Paula S, working mother of two.
In 2004, I applied for a maid to take care of my elderly mother. On both her biodata and her working permit, her age was listed as 25 years old. As she was tall we didn’t question it.
The next year when we were celebrating her birthday, we asked her how old she was going to be and she told us that she was only 19! She said the agency in Indonesia had asked her to lie about her age otherwise she wouldn’t get a job.
We didn’t inform the Malaysian agency so we don’t really know if they knew her real age.
But even if I had known then that she was only 18 when she came, I probably would have still employed her unless it was illegal as she was emotionally mature.
Low W.S. 54, homemaker, mother of three.
About seven or eight years ago, I employed an Indonesian maid. Her biodata was all right – she was 28 and had a husband and kids.
When she got here, though, and started working she was always complaining that she was tired at the end of the day, which didn’t seem right because she was so young. I suspected she was pregnant but didn’t say anything.
There’s supposed to be a screening procedure in Indonesia to make sure the maids aren’t pregnant before they are sent here. But maybe technology was different back then and they didn’t detect it.
However, after working for two months, I confronted her and she admitted that she was pregnant. I took her to a doctor and discovered that she was five months pregnant! So, of course, I sent her back to the agency and got a replacement maid.


Maid To Fit The Bill

For most people who are seeking to hire foreign maids, the biodata is their first introduction to their potential employee. However, the information it contains has proven to be not as truthful as it should be.
WITH her mother’s worsening health, Marie Gomez has no choice but to hire a foreign maid to help care for her. But after hearing numerous hair-raising stories about maids from hell, Gomez is being extra careful in the selection process.
“It is definitely not easy when you only have a stack of biodata to base your selection on. There is no guarantee that all the information submitted is true,” she says.
Even the pictures provided with the biodata raise doubts.
“The prospective domestic workers claim to be of average weight but they look really frail and scrawny in the pictures,” relates Gomez.
“I thought I had found one who looks strong and sturdy enough to look after my mother and help lift her if needed, but then I realised that her picture was stretched sideways to make her look bigger than she really is. In fact she is as scrawny as the rest.”
Age limit: The rule, according to the last memorandum of understanding between Malaysia and Indonesia, is that Indonesian domestic workers who are selected for work in Malaysia must be at least 21 years old and no more than 45. – Filepic
Falsification of biodata, including for their official documents, among foreign domestic workers is more rampant than we realise.
Chan G. from Kuala Lumpur likens selecting a maid from a biodata to buying a lottery ticket.
Says the working mother of one, “I picked my maid from all the biodata given to me because she fulfilled certain criteria and had completed her secondary schooling. When she showed up, however, she was nothing like what she claimed to be.”
Despite her biodata saying otherwise, she could not cook and her attitude was bad, she adds.
“She rang up a phone bill of RM1,400 at my house. She was completely disloyal and unreliable. We discovered later on that she was entertaining people at our home when we were not around as weird people began showing up at our doorstep. When I confronted her about her attitude three or four months after she came to us, she told me that she had not wanted to be a maid but had wanted to work at a factory instead. So we decided to send her back to the agent who promised to send her back to Indonesia.”
A few months after her maid left, says Chan, she started receiving threatening messages from her.
“I learnt later that she was not sent back to Indonesia and is now working for a new employer in Malaysia. My agency never reimbursed us or even apologised,” she says, adding that she will never hire a full-time maid again after her experience.
The biodata is basically a resume for the maid. It contains information about the identity, age and experience of the maid and other details such as their working preferences, willingness to handle pork, take care of dogs or care for the elderly.
“In many situations, however, this information is made up by the agents to make the maids more marketable,” says Migrant Care Malaysia country director Alex Wong.
Many employers keep mum when their domestic workers fail to live up to their biodata or when they find discrepancies in the information provided because “returning” them will cost money.
Employers would have to pay an additional “exchange” fee of between RM,1000 and RM3,000 for a replacement maid, or start the process all over again, forking out the standard fee of RM8,000 as required when one seeks to hire a foreign maid.
Wong alleges that this has created a “business” where some agencies sell their migrant workers to different employers after they are found wanting and sent back by their original employer.
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Alwi Bavutty views this claim as rubbish but concedes that many foreign domestic workers who are sent to Malaysia, especially those from Indonesia, do falsify their personal details when applying for their passport and visa.
“But there is not much we can do because they are supposed to be screened before they come over,” he says.
Maid agency director Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan agrees, stressing that the biodata is a necessary evil because it provides an insight of the maid’s background for employers.
“It is for employers to choose according to their specification. Once they agree, they have to pay the Indonesian agent a 10% deposit to secure the biodata or to book the domestic worker.
Raja Zulkepley: ‘The biodata is a necessary evil because it provides an insight of the maid’s background’
“Most of the payment goes to the Indonesian agent. Our profit is only around RM630 per maid and we have to pay for our office expenses and staff,” he says.
Wong attributes the problem to the hiring system in place.
“True, currently the biodata is the only way that employers can check out the candidates but what you see on paper is often not what you get,” he says.
This has led to numerous cases of maids running away because they are not willing to handle dogs or pork, although their biodata clearly states otherwise.
“Malaysian employers need to be smart ‘consumers’ when they deal with the agencies instead of acting desperately and giving in to all the demands of the agents when they don’t do anything other than provide the biodata,” stresses Wong.
They need to ensure that the domestic workers they receive are trained. In Indonesia, for example, the regulation is that they get 200 hours of training. There are agencies who do not follow the regulation but they claim they do.
Malaysian agents are also supposed to “retrain” the maids they receive before dispatching them to the employer to ensure that they are able to do the work they have been hired for. Unfortunately, this is not a regulation in Malaysia.
Wong highlights that there are many Indonesian domestic workers who are lured to Malaysia to work as factory workers or shop assistants.
“Some even have it stated in their employment contract but when they get here, they are forced to become domestic workers because that is a more lucrative market. This causes a lot of bad blood between the employers and domestic workers,” he says.
Tenaganita programme coordinator Aegile Fernandez concurs, saying that many are sweet-talked into working abroad.
“They are promised lots of money and a better life to come to Malaysia. Some are promised other jobs – like work in a restaurant – but when they arrive they are forced to be maids.
“But they are bound to the agency because they have either spent a lot of money or owe the agency money for the ‘expenses’ to come to Malaysia. Some are even threatened with prostitution,” she says.
Wong believes that many Malaysian agents are colluding with their overseas counterparts to falsify the biodata and other documents of the foreign maids.
The most common “lie” is the age of the prospective domestic worker.
This is well demonstrated by the recent case of the underage maid who torched her employer’s sister’s home in Terengganu after he decided to send her back to Indonesia.
Early investigations revealed that she had gained entry with a proper but allegedly falsified document, which listed a fake name and birth date.
While the police were baffled about how she manipulated her personal details, anyone with a foreign maid at home or those who have gone through the experience of hiring one will vouch that this is part and parcel of the process of hiring a foreign maid.
The rule, according to the last memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Malaysia and Indonesia (we are currently in the midst of negotiations on a new one), is that Indonesian domestic workers who are selected for work in Malaysia must be at least 21 years old and no more than 45.
However, industry insiders say that the accepted average minimum age for Indonesian maids in Malaysia is 18, which is the minimum age allowed for Indonesians to work abroad.
The situation is that in most areas in Indonesia, registration of citizens is not strict while the control system is loose, so there are many abuses.
Most of the poor in rural villages don’t even bother to register their newborn babies for birth certificates or get proper identification papers (ID) when they come of age, he says.
“Many only do it when they want to work as a migrant or domestic worker. They are then assisted by their sponsors, who help process their paperwork to create their identity and get their ID for the purpose of applying for a passport and visa.
“To get a passport, the documentation requirement is more stringent but with a small payment, the process can be made easier and faster,” Wong says.
This is a common practice in Indonesia, he adds, and this is common knowledge among Malaysian agents who use it to their advantage.
“Many Malaysian agents just accept whatever documents and whoever the Indonesian agents send over to them without question. When problems arise, they pass the blame and responsibility back to the Indonesian agents.”
Alwy denies this, stressing that most of the time the minors get through our immigration gates because the documents are genuine.
“It is difficult for us to verify if the data is true or not. If it is accepted by the Indonesian authorities, we should accept it. We do have our own measures to check this; we will interview the candidates to ascertain their real age when we suspect that they are younger than they claim,” he says.
Fernandez warns employers who are landed with an underaged maid to report the case to the authorities.
“If you suspect that a maid is young, send her back and report the agency to the authorities. It is illegal to bring in underaged maids; it could surmount to human trafficking,” she says.
These underaged domestic workers are usually not able to handle the work or the conditions of the work, being isolated from other people and, more often than not, having no means of communication with their families back home.
“They do not have the maturity yet at that age to handle their emotions, what more when they are alone in a strange country. That is why some of them ‘explode’ and take revenge on their employers,” she cautions, citing the case of a 16-year-old Indonesian maid who stabbed her employer’s mother to death in Kuantan in 2008 after she allegedly got tired of the old lady’s nagging and scolding.
Employers really need to keep in mind that these underaged maids are basically still children, she adds.
“At 14 to 16 years old, for example, a girl is young and still wants to have fun. Many do not want to spend their days cooped up doing long hours of housework.”

Both Sources: The Star

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Singaporeanism, At Its Best (2)

Another Commuter Caught Using Eye-Mask Tactic To Grab Priority Seat

STOMPer Ernest saw this woman wearing an eye mask sitting on a Priority Seat on the train. She is the latest commuter to be caught using the eye-mask tactic to hog reserved seats.

Other STOMPer have previously sent in photos of commuters pulling the same stunt.

STOMPer Ernest said:

"I saw this woman wearing an eye mask sitting on a Priority Seat."


You're Not Getting This Seat: Woman Opens Umbrella On MRT

How can you tell if someone does not want you sitting next to her on the MRT train? Perhaps an open umbrella is a strong enough hint.

STOMPer WPY wrote:

"This photo was taken during morning rush hour in a train cabin.

"This woman:

"1. Choped the RESERVED seat with her things
2. Opened an umbrella (is it raining in cabin?)
3. Wore a mask (so that people won't go near and ask to sit beside her?"


New Tactic For Commuters Who Take Reserved Seats? Mask AND Umbrella

We have seen commuters with open umbrellas, and also commuters wearing masks. But STOMPer Jane has seen this woman combining both tactics on her daily commute on the MRT during the morning rush hour.

There appears to be a recent trend of male and female commuters donning eye masks while seated on the reserved seats in the MRT.

It has been speculated that they are trying to avoid identification.

At the same time, two women were spotted on a bus and train, with an open umbrella that prevents others from taking the seat next to them.

STOMPer Jane has apparently witnessed such behaviour by this woman three times:

"I witnessed this on 3 occasions on my morning train ride to work.

"On the 2nd occasion, an SMRT staff member tried to 'wake' this commuter, but she refused to respond.

"I believe she boards the train at Punggol and gets off at Outram on the 7.15 train."

All Sources: Singapore Seen.

Let Living?

8,778 Plead For Condemned Man’s Life
Teoh El Sen

Singapore President Gets A Petition Seeking Clemency For Death Row Inmate Cheong.

PETALING JAYA: The family of Cheong Chun Yin, a 28-year-old Malaysian who is on death row in Singapore, has submitted a petition to the president of the island state, asking him to stop Cheong’s execution and order a retrial of his case.
The petition carries 8,778 signatures, including 401 submitted by Singaporeans and 786 collected online. It was submitted to President SR Nathan at his palace at about 10am today.
Cheong’s cause has been taken up by the Save Vui Kong Campaign (SVKC), the anti-death penalty group that takes its name from Yong Vui Kong, another Malaysian on the Singapore death row.
In a statement released today, SVKC urged the Singapore government to “seriously look into” Cheong’s plea for clemency and called on the Malaysian government to show more concern. It urged Putrajaya to “take more pro-active steps” to help Cheong’s family.
SKVC noted a recent Foreign Ministry statement that 833 Malaysians were detained in foreign countries over drug-related offences.
“Deputy Foreign Minister Richard Riot was also quoted as saying that those arrested were often cheated into becoming drug mules and were most often single mothers and young girls,” said the SKVC statement.
“He also referred them as innocent victims (of drug barons). Cheong is an example.”
The movement also urged both Singapore and Malaysia to re-examine their tough anti-drug laws and policies.
Singapore police arrested Ipoh-born Cheong in June 2008 on suspicion of drug trafficking and the High Court convicted and sentenced him to death in February last year. The Court of Appeal rejected his appeal last October.
He is now awaiting a response from Nathan to a petition for clemency presented at the end of last January. He is due for hanging in the second week of May. The Singapore president is expected to give his response by the end of this month.
Cheong told the Singapore courts he thought he was transporting gold bars for a man named Lau De, who was a regular customer at his DVD stall in Johor Baru.
His lawyers and supporters claim that his conviction and the rejection of his appeal were done hastily.
In the clemency plea, Cheong’s lawyers noted that the trial judge had said, “I do not believe your story” without justifying his statement. They also noted that the appeal court did not give grounds for its judgment.
Cheong was accused of trafficking in 7.7kg of diamorphine. He was arrested with another Malaysian, a woman named Pang Siew Fum , 54.

Source: Free Malaysia Today - April 27, 2011


Singapore’s Death Penalty: Opportunity For Change? 
By Andrew Loh

Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence in Singapore. (Yahoo! file photo)
Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence in Singapore. (Yahoo! file photo)

As Singapore prepares for its 12th General Election post-independence, 23-year-old Malaysian Yong Vui Kong languishes in Changi Prison's death row.
Caught in 2007 in Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district with 47g of heroin, Yong was charged under the city state's Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) for trafficking. He was found guilty and was subsequently sentenced to death.
The campaign to save him from the gallows has been going on for more than a year, initiated by activists and supporters from both Singapore and Yong's home country of Malaysia. Having exhausted his appeal to the courts, Yong's last hope is an appeal for clemency to the Singapore President.
The provisions in the MDA and Singapore's application of the death penalty have been criticised locally and internationally by activists and various non-governmental organisations.
Receiving particular attention are the clauses which effectively put the burden of proof on the accused rather than the state, and the provision for the death sentence to be mandatory for cases where the possession of the drugs are above certain statutory limits.
In other words, trial judges have no authority to consider mitigating factors in individual cases and are required by law to sentence the accused to death, if he is found guilty of trafficking. No other (discretionary) sentences are allowed or provided for under the law.
It is the latter issue which perhaps is what activists and some Singaporeans cannot understand — why not allow judges discretion in sentencing? Why make death mandatory for traffickers, many of whom are small-time drug mules?
Government officials have been reluctant to be drawn into a debate about the issue, preferring instead to defend Singapore's use of the death penalty by citing the law's deterrent effect on traffickers. The government has so far avoided commenting  specifically on the mandatory application of the death penalty rather than the death penalty itself.
In any case, anti-death penalty activists dispute the deterrent claim, arguing that there is no hard evidence or studies to substantiate this.
With the government adopting a hardline stance and relative silence on the matter, it is hard to see that any changes to the law will happen in the near future. But all is not lost, as far as the activists are concerned. The campaign to save Yong has generated public awareness on a wider scale than in past campaigns, partly due to the Internet which campaigners have used extensively in trying to save the Malaysian.
Coincidentally, the release of British author Alan Shadrake's book, Once A Jolly Hangman, which delves into the little-told aspects of those sentenced to death in Singapore, has played a part in raising awareness, too.
Shadrake himself was arrested a day after he attended the book launch in Singapore in 2010. His arrest made the news around the world and cast a spotlight on the use of the death penalty in Singapore.
He was later found guilty of being in contempt of court for certain statements in his book, and was sentenced to six weeks in prison and fined S$20,000. He has appealed the sentence and is awaiting the court's decision.
Perhaps campaigners can also take heart that several political opposition parties have spoken out against the death penalty, namely the Singapore Democratic Party and the Reform Party.
The Workers' Party (WP), which is the biggest and best-supported opposition party in Singapore, hasn't called for outright abolition, a position which perhaps is borne out of the recognition that the Singapore public do support the death penalty, by and large. Instead, the WP wants the processes in sentencing convicts to death to be tightened.
For example, in its election manifesto released on Saturday, the party wants trials for capital cases to "be conducted by a tribunal of two judges whose decision to impose the death sentence must be unanimous." Currently, such trials are heard before a single judge.
"On appeal," the WP says, "the death sentence should be upheld only if it is confirmed unanimously by all three judges in the Court of Appeal."
The party also wants "discretion [to] be given to judges to decide whether the death penalty or a lesser penalty is justified for each case. Parliament can set limits on the degree of discretion, depending on the offence."
Will the government accept these recommendations? It remains to be seen. But it is likely that some sort of rethinking on the part of the government will take place, if not in public, at least in private.
Cases of wrongful executions, such as that of Chiang Kuo-ching in Taiwan, have given impetus to the global campaign to abolish capital punishment.
Campaigners in Singapore can be hopeful that eventually the city-state will have to turn in the same direction as most countries which have already done away with the mandatory death penalty, and that more people are being made aware of the flaws in the laws through heightened public awareness.
In the meantime, the clock ticks away for Yong, who's been on death row for three years.
Andrew is the co-founder and current editor-in-chief of socio-political website The Online Citizen.

Source: - Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Maid - Why A No Malaysia, And A No - Yes, Singapore

Where Have S'pore's Indonesian Maids Gone? 
Radha Basu

It makes for an unlikely dream factory. At a whitewashed house on the outskirts of Jakarta, 120 Indonesian women are striving to fulfill a cherished migrant ambition.

They are training to be maids and to look after other people's homes in affluent parts of the region. It is often their only ticket out of penury.

Singapore has long been a coveted destination. But its allure is fading fast.

Ask how many want to work in Taiwan and 66 hands promptly shoot skywards. Another 39 favor Hong Kong, but only 15 cite Singapore as their dream destination.

Why is that, you ask. Singapore is safe, clean and so close to home. Why do they not want to work there?

"Money not enough, Ma'am," the women intone in unison. "Taiwan, Hong Kong got higher salary."

The labor squeeze that has long been a by-product of globalization and booming Asian economies seems to have reached the lower strata of the job market. Women, even from desperately poor backgrounds, can afford to be a bit choosier these days, as maid recruiters in Indonesia are finding out.

This group of women is being trained by Sejahtera Eka Pratama (SEP), an employment agency in Bekasi, near Jakarta.

A similar story is playing out in Pangkalan, a sleepy West Java hamlet about 250km away. Of the 5,000 families living there, at least 4,000 have a son or a daughter working in a low-paying job overseas. The hamlet's dirt roads are accessible only via motorbike.

Sukarma Mahmud, 50, a village recruiter who supplies Indonesian employment agencies with women willing to work as domestic labor overseas, is doing his rounds.

He is making his pitch to Kesih Suta, 23, as she sits on a mat in her parents' two-room home. She returned to her village last December after seven years away working as a maid in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

"You will earn more than you did for sure," he promises the petite woman whose last pay was around $320 per month. "You may even get four days off a month."

But Kesih, the eldest child of an odd-job worker and a farmer, looks unconvinced. "I can earn even more in Taiwan,' she says in Bahasa.

Sukarma changes tack. "You help me and I help you," he cajoles.

"You pay me something then?" she counters, as her two younger siblings - both under 10 - play nearby. "My parents could use the money.

Would 2 million rupiah (S$290) be enough, he asks.

'I'll think about it,' she smiles. 'No promises.'

Low pay, high qualifications
Indonesia is Singapore's biggest supplier of foreign domestic workers, with at least 90,000 of its citizens working in the Republic.

But a number of factors are taking the gloss off Singapore as a destination, as The Straits Times discovered during a recent visit to training centers and kampungs near Jakarta.

Interviews with 10 Jakarta-based employment agencies and dozens of women who have worked or plan to work as maids overseas found that low pay, high eligibility criteria and the surge in demand from Taiwan, where the women can earn twice what they can here, are undermining Singapore's appeal.

The relatively low wages that Singaporean employers pay for domestic help compared with rates in Hong Kong or Taiwan are by far the biggest disincentive.

An Indonesian maid with no experience who comes to Singapore gets around S$380 a month, though some recruiters are trying to increase that to S$450, with at least one day off.

With wage levels left strictly to market forces and individual employers and maids to determine, some earn even less. Some agencies in Indonesia still recruit maids for S$350 a month or less. Some of these operators are unlicensed.

In Hong Kong, where minimum wage laws are in place, a maid earns at least HK$3,580 (S$581), with at least one day off a week. Unlike in Singapore, domestic workers there are also covered by employment laws and entitled to all public holidays off plus paid annual leave.

Maids in Taiwan can command at least NT$15,840 ($678), with four days off a month. They are also paid extra for working on days off.

Malaysia used to be at the bottom of the table when it came to paying Indonesian maids, but the Jakarta government banned its maids from working there last year after a rise in alleged cases of abuse. Maids in the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Middle East still receive S$350, or less, but the employers absorb all recruitment costs, unlike in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Also, typically, better-off Middle Eastern households employ a few maids each, so the individual workload is lighter.

While Singapore employers generally pay less than those in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the eligibility criteria are the highest.

A worker has to be at least 23 years old and have at least eight years' education to come here. Taiwan and Hong Kong only require domestic workers to be 21 or over. There are no official education criteria, though maids generally have at least primary-level education.

Nurfaizi Suwandi, chairman of Apjati, the Indonesian Manpower Services Association, says: "Twenty-three-year-olds might find it hard to want to work in Singapore for S$380 or S$400, when 21-year-olds are getting close to S$700 in Taiwan."

The body has 330 members, making it Indonesia's largest association for employment agencies.

"The 19- and 20-year-olds who want to come and work in Singapore don't stand a chance."

A few years ago, domestic workers fresh from their villages initially went to Malaysia or Singapore to gain experience, before moving on to higher-paid jobs elsewhere. As Singapore provided an important training ground, it seemed fair that maids were paid less, say agents.

For instance, when Titin Kartini, 26, the eldest of three children of penniless West Java farmers, decided to work overseas a decade ago, she chose Singapore. She earned S$230 a month and worked for a family with three young children.

She had no days off and was not allowed to go out on her own, but she did not mind. "I just focused on learning how to cook and clean, and I also picked up Mandarin," she says. "All I wanted was to move to Hong Kong."

She did so in 2004, and worked there until 2008 for around S$600 a month.

Titin has spent the past three years teaching English at a village school, but is now keen to be off again, this time to Taiwan. "I have always had good employers, but I really want to earn more," says the articulate and confident woman, who can cook for up to 30 people at a time.

Taiwan is attractive not just for the $700 salary.

Unlike in Hong Kong, where she says she was forced to take four days off a month by law - and in doing so spending precious money - she says Taiwan allows her to work on her days off.

By working three Sundays a month, she can earn an additional $70, she calculates.

Opportunities elsewhere
But experienced workers like Titin are not the only ones flocking to Taiwan and Hong Kong these days, says Charles Butar Butar, who heads SEP. Increasingly, even Indonesians with limited or no experience also prefer to start out there.

His agency now supplies around 120 maids to Taiwan and 100 to Hong Kong every month, up from around 80 and 50, respectively, five years ago. There has been a corresponding decrease in supply to Singapore, with only 20 or so of his maids headed here, down from 100 five years ago.

Said Butar Butar: "The Indonesians are increasingly seen to be more obedient and willing to fit into the Chinese culture. And Taiwan and Hong Kong employers don't mind if they have little or no experience."

The Singapore market is getting hit by another factor as well - a depleting supply of Filipino domestic workers, who have long been the Indonesians' rivals in the region.

"For some reason, Filipinas are not coming in the numbers they used to be," says the agency boss. "Indonesians are taking their place."

Filipino maids are increasingly turning down Singapore jobs unless they are paid a Philippine government-stipulated minimum salary of US$400 ($506). This has led to a surge in demand for Indonesians here.

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore confirms that the supply of Filipina domestic workers in the region has been falling in recent years.

More of them prefer to work as retail assistants and factory workers, or go further afield for higher-paying jobs as domestic workers in Canada, Spain and Italy or factory workers in Taiwan, its labor attache Rodolfo Sabulao told The Straits Times.

Indonesians, too, are navigating hitherto unexplored fields, points out Nurfaizi. They are finding jobs on cruise ships in the United States and Europe, and - through a government-to-government program - as health-care workers in Japan.

Even bribes do not work

In a region flush with opportunity, it is small wonder then that many young women in Indonesian villages are reluctant to come to Singapore.

After failing to convince Kesih, Sukarma, the village recruiter, drops in on Zubaidah Nono Suoyana, 27, a former factory worker now planning to work overseas as a maid.

Zubaidah has two young children, including a month-old son, and her husband's pay as an odd-job laborer is not enough for the family. She says she heard on the radio that girls willing to go to Singapore stand to gain an advance payment of 4 million rupiah.

As she has no experience as a maid - a stint in Saudi Arabia was aborted last year when her employer sent her home within a month - Zubaidah initially agrees to work for anything above $350 a month.

But the moment she learns that she might have to live on only $20 a month - or possibly even $10 - for up to nine months while she pays off the recruitment costs, she lets out a small shriek. "I won't even be able to breathe on that money. No way I could survive."

She says her Saudi employer's wife sent her back because she believed her husband was paying her too much attention.

"In Saudi Arabia, there were no deductions," she says. "How do maids survive in Singapore for so long with so little money?"

As he leaves her home, Sukarma claims that he increasingly has to pay maids and their families up to 5 million rupiah to coax them to even consider Singapore.

Recruiters emphasize that the supply of maids from Indonesia has not dried up. But there is a definite crunch in the supply of quality maids.

Says recruitment agent Rudy Hart: "There will always be some who want to go, but their quality is in question." He knows of women who take the "ang pow" money and come to Singapore, only to find that the work is too hard for them. "They then run away and return home," he says. "The agents try to chase them for refunds, but often they don't get any."

Dreaded English test
Singapore's supply is further depleted by the exacting entrance requirements, say Indonesian agents. In April 2005, Singapore introduced a compulsory test in English for all maids that radically changed the game, says Butar Butar.

With better-educated women generally gunning for higher-paying jobs in Hong Kong and Taiwan or other professions elsewhere - and Malaysia out of bounds due to the Indonesian government ban - Singapore is increasingly becoming the place for those who cannot really go anywhere else.

Even if they have completed the mandatory eight years of schooling that Singapore requires, they hardly know any English, points out Antony Rais, who teaches English at Sumber Kencana Sejahtera, a large employment agency on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Although statistics from Singapore's Ministry of Manpower show that nearly 95 per cent of all domestic workers pass the test, Indonesian agents say the number for Indonesians is lower.

Says Mr Hart: "The 95 per cent includes Filipinos, who probably find the test easy." In his agency, which supplies around 50 girls to Singapore every month, about a third fail the test.

In Butar Butar's agency, the pass rate sometimes falls even lower. "Just last week, I sent nine girls to Singapore and six returned after failing the test," he says.

One sultry afternoon earlier this month,  Antony coached a class of 40.

The women prepare for the class by memorizing the answers to 400 questions similar to those found in the Singapore test, with a Bahasa-English dictionary at their side.

The questions are framed in such a way that the women learn not only the basics of English, but also information directly relevant to their work as domestic workers. They also learn about their rights.

"Where in Singapore can you work?" asks Mr Antony, first in English and then in Bahasa. "Only in my employer's house," choruses the class, picking the correct answer from the list of four options.

Later, they learn what a "three-in-one" coffee mix is, how Indonesian helpers should be given at least one day off a month when they work in Singapore and how they can call their agent, embassy or a hotline run by the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) if they are not paid.

But learning by rote in a group setting is not always effective. As the class progresses, some play with their pencils or stare at the corridor outside, lost in thought.

Tough employers
While novices are eager to work in Singapore, some returnees are reluctant to go back.

Many narrate stories of how Singaporeans can be tough employers, unlike those in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Many rue what they call their lack of freedom.

From June 2009, when Siti Nurjanah Surjono left Jakarta to go to Singapore to work, till October last year, her parents did not hear from her even once.

Then, on Hari Raya last year, she called her mother. "It was like she came back from the dead," recounts her mother, Julekha Sutana, 45.

Nurjanah, 24, claims that from the time she began working for a family of five adults in Jurong, she was not allowed to leave her employer's home on her own, or even to make a phone call. Her primary duty was to look after the ailing matriarch of the family. She also claims that both she and the elderly woman were not given enough to eat.

Shortly after her first phone call home - 16 months later - the elderly woman died. Nurjanah was returned to the agency and asked to be sent back home.

Meanwhile, her sister Marfuah Surjono, 27, spent eight years working for two families in Hong Kong without incident. She was given enough food, had regular days off and the keys to the house. "My employers even took me to Ocean Park," she beams, referring to a theme park.

Marfuah, who now works as a Cantonese teacher to trainee maids, says she frequently shares her story - and that of her sister's - with prospective maids: "They need to be informed about the risks before they can make choices."

But Singapore still retains its attraction for one group of women who would work here again in a heartbeat - maids who have had fair employers and enjoyed their stints in the Lion City.

Siti Sopiah, 28, a farmer's wife with a one-year-old son worked for the same Bukit Timah family - a married couple, their son and the child's elderly grandmother - for seven years.

She said her employers were concerned about her well-being, frequently asking her if she was happy. They also bought her clothes and gave her generous ang pows during Chinese New Year.

When she left - she says she wanted to "take a rest and get married" - they gave her four gold chains. "All my time there, I only received kindness," she says. "And I tried to pay it back by working hard."

She is now training to return to Singapore. "It's clean, safe and the people are kind," she adds.

The best part, she says, is that her agency is negotiating a salary of at least S$450. "I am really looking forward to going back."

Source: The Jakarta Globe - March 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Maid - Unholy Acts In The Holiest Place (10)

Runaway Maids Eating Into Family Budgets  

JEDDAH: There are many reports of housemaids being abused or beaten, and occasionally even murdered. However, there is another side to the story.
The large number of housemaids running away from their employers is causing untold problems, including social embarrassments and additional financial burdens for many Saudi families.
“It costs a lot to recruit a housemaid, with fees that go up to SR15,000. This includes recruitment fees, plane ticket and visa,” said Abu Faisal, a recruitment office manager in Jeddah. “If the maid runs away, the employer loses all the money he spent hiring her.”
Maids run away for several reasons, but they are mostly greedy and search for jobs in other households to make more money, according to Abu Faisal.
“Many maids run away from their sponsors as soon as they land in the Kingdom, knowing that they will find a job no matter what, for people are always looking for maids,” he said.
“They know this and plan to run away before even arriving here. Sometimes they arrange it with their friends to guarantee them a better salary,” he added.
“They just need someone to recruit them and pay for their visa and ticket, and once they are here they start looking for jobs with better wages,” said Abu Faisal.
Runaway maids accuse their previous employers of abuse and mistreatment. “My Indonesian maid once told me that her friend was looking for work. I asked her to bring her by so that I could hire her to work for me. Once she came I asked about her previous job and why she left, and that’s when she said that her sponsor used to deprive her of food and did not pay her for her work,” said Moneera Al-Qahtani, housewife and mother.
“When she told me the name of her sponsor I knew she was lying, because it turned out to be my cousin, and later I found out that she worked for him for only two days before she ran away,” Al-Qahtani added.
Frustrated employers are no longer recruiting from outside the Kingdom, but look for help from within.  “I will no longer pay so much money, knowing that my maid might run away and cost me even more. For years now I have been asking my friends and family to bring me maids. I don’t care if they are illegal or don’t have iqama, I only care that my house is clean and my maid does not cost me more than SR1,000 a month,” said Nahed Ibraheem, a working woman.
“I have bad experiences with maids running away even if they are treated like my own daughters. I don’t know why they have the urge to leave suddenly, even when I tell them that I would never hold them if they wanted to go. They just have to tell me in advance so I can arrange for another one,” she added.
At least some employers see maids as a threat to their safety and private life.
“Everyone in the Kingdom looks at us as if we are spoiled and vulgar, for they think our maids are running away because we abuse them and do not provide them with food. They don’t want to admit that we are the people who are suffering, because we are letting complete strangers inside our houses to look into our drawers,” said Kholoud Badr, a high school teacher.
“After years I found out that my maid was a part time prostitute, offering her services to drivers in our neighborhood. This freaked me out because I have two young daughters, and it’s not safe for them to stay at home alone. My question is this: How can you make sure that your maid is not a psychopath or a murderer? We don’t think about these things; we only care about the service,” she added.
Police only arrest maids who are accused of a crime, not runaways, said First Lt. Nawaf Al-Bouq, spokesman for Jeddah police.
“According to the regulations, policemen are not allowed to get involved in the search of maids who run away from their sponsors. We only interfere when the employer accuses his maid of robbery or any criminal act,” he said. “We then liaise with the Passport Department to join forces and search for the suspect.”
All attempts to get a response from the Passport Department failed.

Source: Arab News - April 22, 2011


Some maids run away because they miss their children after minding their employers' kids.

Not to deter runaway maids, personal bond among employers and employees need to to be cultivated.
It was said that no less than 50 housemaids abandon their Saudi employers every month.

Some maids, coming from remote places, were not train to work, thus were unable to operate electrical appliances.
They are unable to perform basic jobs like handling electrical appliances and so make mistakes, something that angers their employers resulting in beatings and torture.
The housemaids then either run away or the sponsor tries to get rid of them.
Most of these women who are from the rural areas, they do not know how to use modern gadgets.
Breaking or mishandling them will be rewarded with scoldings and beatings by their employers.

More domestic workers are expected to run away from their employers before and after the month of Ramadhan.
The big workload during the Ramadhan season drives many of these maids to leave their employment.
Work period starts from dawn to past midnight until the following morning.

Although it is not only illegal, but also a violation of human rights, many Saudi families loan their housemaids and other household helps, to extended members of their families during Ramadan.
This is an encouraged reason for the runaway.
Those with great intention to run away during Ramadhan but was unable to, will do so after the season.

Some housemaids run away due to unpaid wages or delay in salaries.
Thus it adds up to losing situation that claims Saudi families lose more than SR500 million a year because of these domestic workers who run away.

Runaway maids had become a phenomenon.
But those maids who came to the country on maid visas specifically to elope with their suitors, led to much to much chagrin to their employers who had paid much money to process the paperwork to get the maid to the Kingdom.

A maid who had worked for four years in Saudi Arabia told Me of her friend who was enticed by a family driver to abandon her employer, only to have herself rape and kept by this driver, without the employer knew of her whereabout.
She was kept in an isolated place, with all contacts cutoff.

Lately, there are reports of Saudi police busting prostitution ring involving Asian housemaids who fled from their employers.

Some runaway maids were then recruited by agencies that are accredited by the Saudi government, and some others were outsourced into the black labour market.
Some were offered an alternative family, but were charged commission.
Both employers and employees were charged fees. 

Read On...

From Frying Pan To Fire Runaway Maids End Up In Harsher Conditions

JEDDAH: Housemaids who flee their sponsors due to bad working conditions to seek work in the black labor market often end up in a situation of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
In many cases they find themselves at the mercy of sleazy labor brokers who send them to work illegally in conditions that are little different from the legal situations, and often much worse. 
“They seize our IDs, lock us up in secluded rooms and make us live in very difficult conditions, which is no less than indentured servitude,” a maid told Arab News on condition she not be named.
Nuriyyah, an Indonesian maid who has been working for two years in Saudi Arabia, describes the situation she found herself in as “slavery” after being legally recruited and brought to the Kingdom. The wage she ended up receiving was not enough to feed her family back home.
“My sponsor often delayed my payment under the pretext that he had other pressing commitments,” she said. “I had no other choice but to flee.”
Nuriyyah said she lived in a small apartment after her escape with a large number of illegal housemaids who came for Haj or Umrah and overstayed their pilgrimage visas.  She said the man who ran the house essentially acted as an illegal-labor broker.
But what Nuriyyah discovered is that people who hire maids illegally often end up being worse than employers who seek workers through legal channels and at greater expense.  “The new employer and his wife used to beat and humiliate me all the time,” she said. “They also took my iqama. I served them for my food only.”
The maid says she has never been paid for her work. Eventually she fled her illegal employers. She ended up under the Sitteen Bridge, a congregation point for foreign laborers who have fled their sponsors in the hope they will be picked up by the police and deported.
Another Indonesian maid, who did not want to be named, said though she had been an adventurer all her life and would work hard to earn money, she had fears that she might fall victim to inhuman practices on the hands of her new employers.
“I now live in a small house with a large number of illegal African and Asian housemaids,” she said. “The brokers who distribute us among their customers do not care much for what will happen to us. They are only after money.”
She added that she was living in very difficult conditions in this house but her need for money would force her to continue.
The unidentified Indonesian housemaid said she witnessed her co-workers being beaten by merciless employers who know that illegal domestic servants are essentially hostages with few choices.
“Many housemaids had similar experiences but were finally able to make some money and go back home. In order to succeed, you have to take chances,” she said.
Commenting on the issue, spokesman for Jeddah police Col. Misfer Al-Juaid said many of the houses that accommodate runaway maids are found in the districts of Al-Bawadi, Ghulail and Kandara.
“We carry out weekly raids on such houses after identifying them,” he said. “We arrest the illegal residents, take their fingerprints before handing them over to the Passport Department for deportation.”
After these workers end up in the custody of Saudi immigration authorities, a long process for exit clearance takes place. Often these workers have no ID because their passports are with the employers from whom they fled. Saudi authorities must work with foreign missions to establish identities and check for criminal backgrounds before they can be sent home. 
Al-Juaid pointed out that an illegal worker can be exposed to more abuse than legal workers, because sponsors are aware that there is little recourse for reporting or challenging abusive situations. “The illegal housemaids bear all these inhuman treatment in order not to be caught by the passport police and sent back home,” he added.
The most common form of maid abuse is not paying salaries, followed by physical and sexual abuse. The Saudi authorities do not offer statistics of the number of abuse cases reported to them, but the problem is acute enough that labor rights activists and foreign missions – especially of Indonesia and the Philippines – maintain shelters for fleeing maids, especially women.
Supervisor of the National Society for Human Rights in Makkah province Hussain Al-Sharif described violence against housemaids as inhuman and un-Islamic.
“Just because they are paying them money, some employers will come to believe that they literally own their housemaids and they have the right to ask them to do anything,” he said.
Al-Sharif agreed with Al-Juaid, saying that illegal workers face a greater chance of being abused with impunity.
“Violence against housemaids, whether they are legal or illegal stayers, is inhuman and totally against Islam,” he added. “We completely reject such practices and deplore exploitation of any human being.”
Al-Sharif asked all employers to consider the pressing conditions that drove the housemaids to come all they way from their countries in the first place. The main reason is remittances, the money they can save up to send home to feed their children or other family members. Not paying a maid could mean a child back home goes without food, clothing or medicines.

Source: A1 Saudi Arabia - January 12, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Food - Cashew, Will Think Again

The Kasargodu district of the South Indian state Kerala has a close connection with the Middle East in general, and the UAE in particular.

Thousands of people from the district are working here in the emirates.

While these expatriates’ families often rely on the Gulf connection to better their lives, they are facing a much bigger battle at home - one that involves life, death and a toxic pesticide, Endosulfan.

Kasargodu district is a major cashew plantation area and Endosulphan was used as a pesticide for many years - sprayed from helicopters over the plantations.

Residents of the district and major human rights organisations – including the National Human Rights Commission of India - have since reported deadly toxic side effects on residents of the district.

Victims claim exposure to the pesticide has caused them to suffer cancer, physical deformations and abnormalities, epilepsy, multiple congenital skeletal deformations and other chronic diseases.

Reports have also come in about the death of flora and fauna, including frogs, birds, chickens and cows.

The seriousness of the issue was driven home here in the UAE when the eight-year old daughter of a UAE-based expatriate suffered an abnormal growth of her head while she was residing in Kasargodu.

Speaking to this website, the father, who requested his name withheld, said, “About 4,000 victims are slowly dying there. The victims have stunted growth and deformed limbs. Children are the worst affected.”

The drive against the use of Endosulphan has been on-going for some time now in India, but with such a large representation from the district here in the UAE, expatriates have decided to get involved to ensure the pesticide is banned.

Endosulphan's future will be voted on at the sixth meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants' Review Committee (POPRC) of the Stockholm Convention that is on in Geneva, Switzerland, this week.

More than 2,500 children from Malarvadi Bala Sangham (Childrens’ Club) Dubai, participated in a protest movement against Endosulphan by painting pictures and casting their symbolic votes in support of people back home born with deformities and other health problems.

The pesticide has been banned in over 80 countries and expatriate associations here are canvassing votes from community members for online petitions, asking for a total ban on the pesticide in India.

The National Human Rights Commission of India has also advised that the deadly pesticide should be banned.

Dubai Art Lovers Association (Dala), a leading socio-political orgaisation of the Indian community in Dubai, MAS Sharjah, Ras Al Khimah Expatriates Association, and a number of smaller organisations representing the Indian community are all campaigning that the Indian government take a stand against Endosulphan .

Social networking sites are being flooded with anti-Endosulphan campaigns.

K M Abbas, President, Endosulfan Victims Support Group, UAE Chapter told Emirates 24|7: “We have joined the campaign with other Indian organisations demanding that the Indian Government ban Endosulphan use and vote against the product at the Geneva Convention on April 25, 2011. Expatriate families are reluctant to acknowledge that they suffer health problems from Endosulphan because they will not get proper marriage proposals for their sons and daughters. It is a grave situation.”

Kerala Chief Minister, V S Achuthanantha, will participate in the protest against Endosulphan by fasting on April 25, 2011, the day when decision makers would be discussing and voting in Geneva.

Source: Emirates 247 - Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Other World - The Other Experience In Jumeirah

It's 3am and footsteps can be heard echoing across the upstairs landing. A chill seeps into the room as a long dark shadow uncurls across the staircase, reaching out into the inky black darkness.
If this was a scene from a Hollywood movie, Ghostbusters would only be a short call away.
But for the many residents of Jumeirah 2 and 3, this everyday reality spins a spooky yarn of its own.
Over the last one year, cases of ghostly sightings and eerie and unexplained happenings have surfaced across residents of villas across the district.
The Jumeirah 2 neighbourhood, behind Choithrams supermarket in particular, has given several families sleepless nights.
Kate Naomi, a former Jumeirah resident wrote on the forum: “I consider myself a non-believer. But we moved into a house in Jumeirah, quite an old house actually, and all kinds of strange things started to happen. We tried to think up rational explanations but couldn’t seem to find any.
“There were a number of incidents - a plate sliding across the table on its own (heavy china one), there was nothing near it and the table was not wet. The gas cooker kept turning on; my sons toys kept activating themselves (remote control car driving round when no one is near the controller).”
If that wasn’t enough to give people the willies, she added: “My husband who is a complete non-believer told me he saw someone sitting on the stairs, a woman, and both of us have seen a small boy several times... It has happened in front of others too with my best friend sprinting for the door and wouldn’t come round after she witnessed some strange goings on. [sic].”
Kate went on to state that she later learned that no tenant has stayed in the house longer than six months.
Since her posts began, the family has moved homes and are relieved that incidents have not followed them into their new residence.
Kate’s experiences are not isolated. Another Jumeirah resident, Kitty, has also narrated similar experiences, saying: “We are living in Jumeirah three near Choithrams and also have odd things happening. The kitchen tap starts running around 10pm. I can hear footsteps upstairs when I know the kids are asleep. I also get the feeling that I am being watched and then the dog starts barking always in the same place where I feel the watching is coming from. Thankfully it does not seem to be a threatening presence.”
Another Expatforum poster, Wrinkly has a similar story to tell. “We live behind Safa Park and for the past six years have been having this ‘uneasy’ feeling in the house.
“My friend and her daughter came to visit and the daughter told us she saw a shadow in the house and a woman’s figure. Our neighbours never stay longer than a year and the people previously in our house also just stayed for a year and the people before them... I don’t know if it’s just my imagination going wild or there might be something more
A former burial site?
Stories have long since circulated over the Dubai grapevine that the Jumeirah district was once a burial ground for tribes over a century ago.
Kate is a firm believer in that, saying: “I know for a fact that there are a few old burial grounds in Jumeirah; I am pretty sure my house was located on one.”
Sophie, who is also a Jumeirah resident took to the online forum to talk about her maid complaining of seeing spirits, which soon propelled into a state of spooky incidences.
She wrote: “My daughter started with these stories of “friends” telling her “secrets” so I just chalked it up to imaginary friends, although she said one of them was “scaryman” and that has been a whole discussion with her. I am overly cautious with her TV to the point that there is no cable connection in the playroom...”
But when Sophie’s maid started to complain that spirits were haunting the house, all rationality went on pause mode.
“My villa is over 20 years old and the house next door is empty a lot and in the past five years has had a few different families,” she said. “But I also know that parts of Jumeirah are on top of old archaeological sites.”
Head to UAE interact and the government website confirms that Jumeirah was once a caravan stop for a trade route connecting Iraq and Rumoured grave sites having been covered over the decades have also made the rounds, but no one has ever confirmed the urban legend.
When 'Emirates 24|7' investigated, several similar stories cropped up with one Pakistani gardener, Shoaib Khan, saying: “I have worked in the area for seven years and there is a house here that all of us avoid walking past.
You feel a cold chill the minute you enter its compound and the dogs also bark incessantly when they approach it.
“No one has stayed in the villa for years and sometimes if you are out at night, you hear noises coming from it. I am telling you, there is an evil jinn in the house.”
Khan refused to escort this reporter to what he referred to as “bhoot villa” or “ghost villa”, nor would he divulge in its whereabouts.
Surprisingly, three others verified Khan’s story and all paled at the idea of divulging the address.
In Arabic folklore and Islamic teachings, jinns are supernatural beings that reside in a parallel world to humans. Jinns are known to be good, neutral or evil.
“The ones here are not good. They are evil,” said Liaqat Hassan, an Afghani driver who resides in Jumeirah three with his employers. “We have seen her, a woman who walks with her feet twisted. Anyone who looks her directly in the face goes mad.”
While Hassan’s dramatic story cannot be proved, his fear seemed genuine as he immediately started to recite verses from the Holy Quran and walked away.
Resident Sophie did ultimately end up employing the exorcism route to cleanse her home of any spirits, mischievous or of the evil kind.
She said: “The maid has not said anything about any spirits of late. It could also be that she was making it up and thought better to stop or my husband got a bit angry with her and scared her more than the spirits.”

Source: Emirates 247 - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Pondering Moment (2)

I am touched by the photo here, that I shared with readers, of a woman returning donated blankets with her father to an evacuation centre since they move out to another shelter.

As I read online papers today, here is the writing that pricked My inner soul. 
I can only observe and praise from far, all the concerned Japanese authorities, preparing the nation with strong mentality towards dealing with disaster.
A resilient Japanese society is thus nurtured, a strong character and mentality thus built. The nurturing process had contributed significantly to their resilience attitude towards natural disasters.


Disaster Resilient Society
Yansen, Bengkulu

The intensity of natural disasters and weather anomalies across the globe seems to be increasing. We saw unusual winter in Europe which was caused by snow storm at the end of 2010. This event created massive chaos in the transportation sector across the continent.

The La Nina phenomenon in early 2011 had created more rain across the Pacific and the southern hemisphere. Flooding has been widespread from Brazil in South America to Australia.

In Brazil, the recent floods claimed more than 500 casualties. Australia also experienced widespread flooding from the state of Queensland to Victoria. Brisbane suffered huge losses after the Brisbane River was filled by mega tons of rainwater. In Indonesia, flooding occurred in many places on all major islands, from Sumatra to Papua, killing many people.

Then we came the mega disaster in Japan when a powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by a tsunami, struck the northern part of the country. Thousands of people were killed by the giant wave. We saw from the video footage how Sendai Prefecture was washed away by the massive water stream. That was not the end of the story, as Japanese people are shadowed by the possibility of nuclear disaster.

However, the world has been impressed by the positive reaction showed by Japanese people toward the disasters. Their attitude toward disaster has been magnificent. As described by Ika Inggas (The Jakarta Post, March 22), in the time of disasters, the Japanese people continued showing their discipline, solidarity and the spirit of ‘gambaru’, which means “do the best until the end.”

The Japanese have shown strong resilience in facing disasters. They have a great capacity to prepare themselves and to recover from the disasters with minimum help from external assistance. Japan has set a fine example of disaster preparedness, mitigation and recovery programs, especially from earthquakes and tsunamis. By observing the current situation and how people respond to natural disasters, the important thing is what we can learn from other experiences in dealing with disasters.

According to Siambabala Manyena (2006), there has been increasing attention paid to focusing on how disaster-affected communities prepare for and recover from disasters with minimal help from external
assistance. Therefore, there is a need to highlight the importance of resilience rather than just vulnerability. But, where does the resilience come from?

Many believe that the Japanese character and mentality contribute significantly to their attitude toward natural disasters. However, I believe that most societies have their own strong mentality to face hardships and difficulties. Radar Panca Dahana (Kompas, March 23) asked a rhetorical question: “Are we as strong as Japanese people?” He then said we Indonesians have more than enough character and the mentality to be strong in facing calamities.

In terms of natural disasters, Kathleen Tierney and Michel Bruneau (2007) said that there were two important terms: disaster resistance and disaster resilience. Disaster resistance is the ability to provide pre-disaster mitigation measures, including structures, infrastructure elements and institutions that could minimize losses from a disaster. The next level is disaster resilience, which is more about “a concern for improving the capacity of physical and human systems to respond to and recover from extreme events.”

So, disaster resilience is actually not only about strong character or a certain mentality, but also the readiness and the preparedness to mitigate losses caused by disasters. As a country with frequent natural disasters, Japan has built massive mitigation programs. Buildings have to comply with earthquake mitigation structural standards.

They also continue to educate their people about natural disasters. The combination of what the authorities have done to prepare themselves and a strong mentality toward dealing with disaster generate a resilient society.

The question of disaster resilience is actually not only relevant for less developed communities, but also developed nations. We may still remember the US authorities’ lack of preparation when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, when in fact, the activity of a hurricane is more predictable than an earthquake or a tsunami.

I’ve ironically been lucky enough to be directly affected by natural disasters in Australia. The last Category Five tropical cyclone Yasi, which struck north Queensland, was terrifying. My experience with tropical cyclones really showed that community resilience in the face of disaster is not just a matter of a mentality. “Queenslanders are tough,” said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

However, the disaster mitigation and evacuation schemes provided by the government contributed significantly to easing the peoples’ feelings of uncertainty. People were kept informed about what was going to happen and they were directed to prepare for the worst scenario. The society is also continually educated about the natural disasters they may face in future.

Therefore, we can’t expect to build disaster resilient societies in our country without preparing the appropriate structures and infrastructure elements needed to face natural disasters. With an increase in the occurrence of disasters, our tasks are much more significant.

Our lack of preparation will only create more pessimism and desperation. The authorities need to guide the people by taking appropriate actions and avoiding desperate reactions every time a disaster hits.

Desperate reactions will only deteriorate a society’s strong mentality, which could then lead to communal pessimism.

We have to decide our own destiny by applying positive values and measurable actions to face natural calamities.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “keep my words positive, because my words become behaviors. Keep my behavior positive, because my behaviors become habits. Keep my habits positive, because my habits become values. Keep my values positive, because they become my destiny.”

The writer is an ecologist at the University of Bengkulu and an Australian Leadership Awards fellow.

Source: The Jakarta Post - Saturday, April 23, 2011

Towards Lesser Crime In JB (5)

Impersonating Police Officers

Bogus Cops Get Six Years And Cane

JOHOR BARU: Two lorry drivers were sentenced to six years’ jail and two strokes of the cane for impersonating police officers to rob six foreigners.
Mohd Firdaus Abdullah, 34, and Mohd Nazri Abdul, 32, yesterday pleaded guilty to committing the offence at Taman Universiti on April 12 at about 5.30pm.
According to the facts of the case, they impersona ted police officers and robbed the six foreigners of RM395, a handphone and their pas sports.
Sessions Court judge Nu’ Aman Mahm ud Zuhudi ordered that the jail term start from the date of arrest.
Meanwhile, an unemployed man pleaded guilty in a magistrate’s court to stealing a tin of Milo.
According to the charge sheet, Md Razali Doll, 54, had stolen the chocolate powder worth RM31.99 from a supermarket ne ar Jalan Pandan at 6.4 5pm on April 19.
Magistrate Hafizah Johor Ariff Johor sentenced him to five years’ jail an d fined him RM2,000.
Hafizah said Razali had committed eight similar offenc es since 1978, hence the long jail term , although this offence was not serious.

Source: The Star - Saturday, April 23, 2011


Singer Loses Money And Mobile Phones To Bogus Cops

A KOTAI (stage show) singer clad only in his underpants chased after two robbers in a hotel in Johor Baru, reported Nanyang Siang Pau.
Raymond Chen You Hua, 53, claimed that the two men had robbed him of a total of RM6,337, and two mobile phones from his room on the second floor of the hotel.
He said the two men, believed to be in their 30s, had earlier cornered him in the room when he was just clad in his underpants.
Chen said that after identifying themselves as policemen, they ransacked his belongings before fleeing from the room with his money and mobile phones.
He said he then gave chase but lost them on the first floor.
He told reporters during a press conference called by the Johor MCA and Gerakan on Thursday that he was dissatisfied by the lack of action by the hotel in resolving the robbery.
He said he had lodged a complaint with the hotel after the incident in October because he believed that the men had entered his room with a hotel key as there was no sign of forced entry.

Source: The Star - Saturday, January 29, 2011


Bogus Cop Who Claimed To Be From Bukit Aman Detained 
Submitted by Adam

JOHOR BARU: Luck ran out on a bogus cop who has been collecting money by conning the public, when police arrested him last Friday, while trying to withdraw money that was banked him by his victim.
The 31-year-old, claiming to be from Bukit Aman, had duped a number of people in Kluang and collected money in the pretext of helping them.
Johor police chief Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff, said the man was detained when withdrawing RM10,000 from a bank after initially requesting RM50,000, apparently claiming that the victim was involved in a 'black money' scam.
"The bogus cop had contacted the victim and claimed that the victim was involved in a black money syndicate in Hong Kong and to settle the matter, had requested RM50,000," he told reporters at the Johor police headquarters, here today.
Mohd Mokhtar said the victim had later banked in RM10,000 into the account of the bogus cop.
The suspect, believed to have cheated four other people, was arrested while trying to withdraw the money.

Source: Malay Mail - Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Singaporeanism, At Its Best


Family Does A SeeSaw With Car To Get More Petrol While In JB

STOMPer Wendy spotted this family rocking their car to ensure more petrol is being filled-up.

Said the STOMPer:

"Father, mother, and son rocks car to top up more at JB."

Source: Singapore Seen.Stomp - March 29, 2011


More Flouting Three-Quarter-Tank Rule 
By Ng Lian Cheong

SINGAPORE: Singapore Customs said the number of people who violated the three-quarter-tank rule doubled last year.

It said the figure went up to about 4,000 compared to that the year before.

The rule, which has been in place since 1991, requires all motorists travelling north out of Singapore, to fill their petrol tanks to at least three-quarter full.

One driver said: "The (petrol) prices are pretty high right now. If I'm going to Malaysia, I will go with a three-quarter tank, and top up to a full tank before returning to Singapore.

"I think that's the norm -- a lot of people do that".

Another said: "Most of the time, I go in with three-quarter tank or more than three quarters, depending on the situation. I mean, since I'm going to Malaysia, I might as well top up there".

In Singapore, petrol costs about two dollars per litre, while in Malaysia, it's about RM1.90 or about 80 Singapore cents.

The price difference is why Singapore motorists are heading north to fill up their tanks.

Singapore Customs said the number of people violating the three-quarter-tank rule has been on the rise between 2008 and 2010.

Offenders face a maximum fine of S$500.

Some motorists go even further by tampering with their fuel meter.

Last year, 23 car owners were charged with that offence, down from 24 in 2009.

In 2008, there were only four such cases.

Offenders who tamper with their fuel meter face a S$5,000 fine or a year's jail.


Source: Channel News Asia - March 28, 2011