Wednesday, December 11 2002

Syed Hamid: Girl is Malaysia’s concern

By Joniston Bangkuai and Koh Lay Chin

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10: The 13-year-old girl who alleged she was raped by policemen at a detention centre was Malaysia’s responsibility and not any other country’s concern, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said today.
"As far as we are concerned, we will take care of her welfare. That is our responsibility and she is our citizen ... that is all we can say now. The rest of it should not be anyone's concern," he added, declining to elaborate further.
He was asked to comment on several requests by the Philippine Government with regard to the status and progress of the girl's case.
Speaking after being briefed on preparations for the NAM summit at the Putra World Trade Centre, he said: "We do not need to respond to what they say." The girl, who was at the centre of a diplomatic row between the Philippines and Malaysia, returned from Manila yesterday.
Philippine Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Juliano Soliman, who accompanied the girl on her return at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, had read a "joint statement of commitment" on behalf of the Philippines and Malaysia.
Soliman is scheduled to meet National Unity and Social Development Minister Datuk Dr Siti Zaharah Sulaiman tomorrow to talk about the girl.
Meanwhile, in Kota Kinabalu, the teenager is adjusting well to her surroundings at the Princess Anne Children's Home in Likas.
Soliman said the psychologist and social worker from the Philippines, who attended to the girl while she was at a welfare home in Manila, were working with their counterparts here providing counselling to the girl.
"I don't see any problem for her to adjust .. she just needs a few days to get used to the environment here," Soliman told the New Straits Times after visiting the teenager today.
The girl was mistakenly deported to the Philippines in early September as local authorities thought she was a Filipina after she failed to produce any identification documents when she was found wandering in Kota Kinabalu in July.
Malaysian police investigating the rape allegation later discovered that she was a Malaysian and that her parents were in Sabah.