Accountants back home, hold no hard feelings

By Mohd Nasir Yusoff and Mohd Razman Abdullah (From Bernama of October 05, 2005)

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 (Bernama) -- The two Malaysian accountants freed Wednesday after 50 days in detention in Sulawesi, Indonesia returned here Wednesday night eager to see their families and thankful to everyone concerned for their release but added they were unlikely to visit Indonesia again in the near future .
Choo Yao Chin, 24, and Raimala Sivalingam, 29, both staff of KPMG Malaysia, arrived at the KL International Airport (KLIA) on a MAS plane at 9.20pm .
They were accompanied by Yao Chin's father, Teck Keong, who had flown to Makassar on Sept 23 to be with his son, and Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Datuk Zainal Abidin Mahamad Zain .
The two accountants were detained on Aug 17 in Makassar, South Sulawesi for allegedly violating Indonesian visa regulations while conducting a due diligence study on a mining company, PT International Nickel Indonesia, in Sorowako .
"It was not exactly a pleasant situation to live in a cell but after a week I managed to cope with the situation and accepted it," Choo told reporters at KLIA .
He said he spent 20 days in the lockup with up to 10 other detainees but he was not mistreated .
As for the food, he said it was provided on time and although not appetising, he still ate it "to stay strong in facing the situation", he said .
Raimala said she was detained in Hospital Bhalangkara as the Makassar police station did not have a lockup for women .
She said the experience was most agonising as she was alone in the hospital's detention centre .
"Fortunately there was a hospital worker who came to keep me company each night," she said .
Earlier Wednesday, in a telephone interview with Bernama while waiting for their flight home at the Sukarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta, the two said they were unlikely to visit Indonesia again in the near future .
"No, maybe not in the near future as I might have been here too long this time, and again it's too soon to tell. I just want to be back home in Subang first and foremost," said Raimala .
The two were held from Aug 17 until Sept 23 when they were released on RM40,000 bail each pending further police investigation .
Both of them then spent almost all their days and nights in their hotel rooms and went out infrequently as Makassar was then experiencing street demonstrations against fuel price increases .
Raimala said they went to nearby food outlets just to have their meals and immediately returned to the hotel. Once or twice they were escorted by their lawyers to visit a few tourist attractions .
Choo said he believed he would not be going to South Sulawesi or any other parts of Indonesia again in the foreseeable future and if his employer assigned him a duty in this country, he would have to think it over and over again .
"Definitely if I must come here again I would be more careful, very very careful," he said, thanking his father for being in Makassar to accompany him and Raimala .
"I have known it before but now after he did all this for me, I came to know for sure that my father's love for me is so special, sacrificing his time to be with me, to make sure I'm okay," he said .
The elder Choo, meanwhile, said his son and Raimala would certainly come out of this ordeal to become better persons .
"It's not an experience that one would wish for," he said, adding that, however, he and his son and Raimala did not have any hard feelings against the Indonesian authorities .
All three of them expressed their heartfelt thanks to the Indonesian authorities who helped make things easier for them and enabled them to be released sooner .
"Most of all, we owe our heartfelt thanks to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Ambassador Datuk Zainal Abidin, embassy police attache Pak Nazir, and officials of the embassy and all agencies who have helped in one way or another for this release," he said .
Zainal Abidin said he went to Makassar on Monday to discuss with the local police officials about the release of the two accountants and was thankful the effort bore fruit .
"We visited the immigration office yesterday to arrange the travel documents for the two and, at 11 this morning, we left Makassar for Jakarta on transit to Malaysia," he said .
KPMG Malaysia senior partner Quah Poh Keat said in a statement the firm was grateful for the return of its two staff and thanked the authorities for their efforts .
The firm also expressed its deepest gratitude to Najib for taking cognizance of the predicament faced by the two .
KPMG also thanked Zainal Abidin and the Malaysian embassy staff in Jakarta, whose collective efforts played a key role in the two accountants being released .
"We met a number of major obstacles in the course of this unfortunate incident and I'm thankful for the grace of God and His mercies that we are able to bring Choo Yao Chin and Raimala Sivalingam back to Malaysia safely .
"I also thank the prayer support by everyone for the protection and safety of our two staff," said Quah.