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Saturday, November 30, 2013

'EVEN WITHOUT US, SHE CAN SURVIVE': A precious lesson from Siti Aishah to insular Malays back home

'EVEN WITHOUT US, SHE CAN SURVIVE': A precious lesson from Siti Aishah to insular Malays back home
KUALA LUMPUR - Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab, the 69-year old Malaysian `slave` rescued from the grasps of a south London-based Maoist sect, is happy in London and had a lot of friends, her sister was quoted as saying in The Telegraph.
Kamar Mahtum, 73, described the joy and sadness following her first emotional reunion with her sister in more than 40-years.
Siti Aishah, who was allegedly held against her will for more than 30-years, said she was happy in Britain and had a wide circle of friends who cared for her, fed her and loved her.
In the Nov 29 interview, the Telegraph quoted Kamar Mahtum as saying that Siti Aishah was so swept up in left-wing politics that she became totally isolated from her family and did not even know their mother passed away 19-years ago.
The two sisters were reportedly reunited at a secret location in the north of England after Karmar mahtum flew to London immediately after discovering her sister had been found.
Kamar Mahtum related to the English daily how Siti Aishah was doing well but was a different person compared to the fiercely bright quantity surveying student who left Malaysia full of ambition at the tail end of the 1960s.
How is mum? Mum is gone
The retired teacher said: “At first I did not recognise her. She looked very different of course; 40-years older, the beautiful young girl had gone. But then again I am also an old woman now.”
She said the first thing they did was to hug one another for a long time as the years of separation fell away.
“I cried, first out of relief, but then out of anger and then out of frustration. She asked me, ‘how is mum?’ and I said, ‘mum is gone’.
“She did not show any emotion at that point. She had tears in her eyes, but I think they were out of respect for me. But I had the sob of my life.
“The last time I sobbed like that was when I lost my mother in 1994. We could not contact Aishah to let her know because we did not know where she was.”
I love your smile
During the 40 minute reunion meeting, the pair did not discuss the conditions in which Miss Wahab and the other rescued women had been living, nor their alleged captors, Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda Pattni.
She told The Daily Telegraph: “When I asked her about what had gone on she just clammed up. The only thing she wanted me to perceive is that she is happy.
“She told me, ‘I have got friends here, I work here. I do important work here’, but she could not reveal what it was she did.”
“Each time she said something that made me smile she would say, ‘oh I love your smile. Don’t frown, laugh, smile’.”
Siti Aishah and the other two alleged slaves – believed to be Josephine Herivel, 57, from Northern Ireland and 30-year-old Prem Davies – were released last month after the Freedom Charity received a call from one of the women complaining they had been held against their will for 30-years.
Police from the Met’s human trafficking unit described the case as unique and said as well as investigating allegations of physical assault they were also looking at the “invisible handcuffs” that had been used to keep them in “captivity”.
Hasnah Abdul Wahab holds an old portrait of her younger sister, Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab (C), during an interview with Agence France-Presse at her house in Jelebu, a district of Negeri Sembilan, outside Kuala Lumpur on November 27, 2013. Police in Kuala Lumpur said on November 27 one of three women allegedly held as slaves in London for 30 years was a Malaysian who went missing in the 1960s, prompting a joyous reaction from the long-lost woman's sister. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN
Even without us, she can survive
In the interview with the Telegraph, Kamar Mahtum said her instinct had been to reach out and help her little sister, but Siti Aishah insisted she had never been lonely in London and had people who looked out for her.
“Aishah said, ‘I’ve got enough’, ‘my friends feed me’, ‘my friends love me, I love them, they help me out.”
She added: “When she said that I felt that she was trying to tell me … that even without us, she can survive, as she has been for the last 40 years. We’re nothing that important. I felt a lot of disappointment.”
But she said Siti Aishah had promised to return to Malaysia to be reunited with the rest of her family once the investigation into allegations of slavery was complete, a process which could take at least a year.
She explained: “She promised that after the investigation was over she would come home. As the rest of her family I want her to come home very, very badly.
“I want her to know my children. I want my children to know her. Because part of her is me and part of her is in my children and I want them to recognise the similarity and the identity across the generations. I still feel emotional about it.”
Why do you speak in Malay: She could no longer read Malay
Kamar Mahtum admitted that her sister had been in London for so long that she now appeared to be more British than Malaysian.
“She was wearing a thick red cardigan and brown pants, very comfortable. She was commenting on my Malaysian attire, my attire is very delicate, velvety, she said this is not something to wear in this cold weather.
“When I tried to talk in Malay she said, ‘why do you speak in Malay, when I haven’t heard it for 40-years.
“I showed her the letter that I had written, but she said, ‘what is this word?’ she could no longer read Malay.”
Kamar Mahtum said the last time the pair had seen each other had been in 1967 when she won a place at university and moved to London with her fiancé.
Two years later when the older sister married in Malaysia, Siti Aishah failed to return.
She became more involved with radical politics, so the communication dried up and she has never met any of her older sister’s four children or 11 grandchildren.
40 years is nothing in time
Describing the meeting, which was attended by around 10 police officers and representatives from the Malaysian High Commission, Kamar Mahtum said seeing that her sister was safe meant she had achieved what she came to Britain to do.
She said: “It was a very emotional day, very revealing, but then I was contented that I got what I wanted and I can bring home the beautiful memories. I have a feeling that she does want to come home eventually and that we will work hard to persuade her.”
“At least I know that my feelings have never wavered, I love her as my sister as I loved her before. I think she loves me too but she’s not as ready to show it as much as I do.
She added: “The blood bonds us thickly as yet, 40-years doesn’t make much change as far as that is concerned.”
Balakrishnan and his wife Pattni have been bailed until a date in January. - Agencies

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