Member of the Upper House of the Parliament of Malaysia, Senator Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi, who is the Persons with Disabilities or Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) community representative stated that she is not at liberty to make public comments on the case regarding the 13-year-old Bella who has Down Syndrome.
Datuk Ras Adiba said, “Many have been curious about my stand in relation to the Down Syndrome teen case known as Bella. I would like to state that I have been following her case very closely even though I am not at the hearings in person. However, as this case is an on-going one, I have been legally advised that I am not at liberty to make any public comments on the case as it may constitute interference with the due process of the law.”
This was in response to allegations made by an individual who claims to fight and work for Bella particularly, claiming that the senator does not care, due to her absence during Bella’s case hearing in court.
“I am not sure whether the person making that comment is unaware but there are SOP measures presently in place which limit the attendance of non-parties. Either way, please know that my door is always open to everyone in the OKU community (and even those active in the field of OKU rights). I am here to serve the interests of OKU and articulate matters which will advance OKU rights. I am also looking into many other OKU cases,” she continued.
The senator, also the Chairman of BERNAMA, refuted claims that the national news agency was controlling the media from reporting Bella’s case. She added that the comment was “furthest from the truth”, and that BERNAMA has no control over other media houses.
Last year, reports of Down Syndrome teenager Bella being neglected and abused by Siti Bainun, founder of the Rumah Bonda childcare centre, went viral on social media and made the headlines on many Malaysian news platforms. Bella’s injuries were made known to the authorities after a video of her injuries surfaced online, posted by one of the former volunteers at the childcare centre who visited the teenager. The former volunteer had her suspicions as to why Bella could not be contacted on a few occasions and decided to meet her at Siti Bainun’s condominium in Wangsa Maju. It was then revealed that Bella sustained injuries on her chest, hands, neck and thighs before being taken to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital for further treatment.
On 20 August last year, Siti Bainun pleaded not guilty to two charges of neglect under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001. The caretaker was again charged in November of the same year but was tied to bail at RM5,000. The case was reopened, and the trial began on 30 March 2022, with 34 prosecution witnesses testifying in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
The hearing on 8 April provided further information on the case as one of the occupants of Rumah Bonda revealed that she abused Bella on Siti Bainun’s instructions by throwing hot water at Bella and shortly after, instructed her to bite Bella’s belly as Siti Bainun did not hear Bella screaming from the splash of hot water.
The injuries Bella sustained have sparked outrage amongst Malaysians, including local celebrities as they take a stand against violence.
Datuk Ras Adiba said, “This is an emotional time for everyone involved and my concern remains how to protect those vulnerable members of our OKU community. The images that we all saw are heart breaking, and like everyone in the OKU community, we want answers and justice must be served.”
Datuk Ras Adiba who is also president of OKU Sentral was present at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex yesterday (11 April) to show her support for Bella.
She said, “I hope cases of abuse involving children, especially PWDs, will be brought forward to the Parliament’s Special Select Committee on Women’s and Children’s Affairs. Appropriate punishment must be imposed on offenders regardless of the status of the person who violates the rights of PWD. I also request the Social Welfare Department (JKM) to close childcare, PWD and senior citizens’ homes that are not registered with JKM.”
*Written by NHA Reporter, Kanessha Ramakrishnan. Edited by Ruzanna Muhammad.