Activists and netizens have slammed Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun over her “delayed” action in the abuse case of a teenager with Down Syndrome known as Bella.
Taking to Twitter, child activist Dr Hartini Zainudin did not mince words in criticising Rina for keeping mum on the matter.
“You’re pathetic! We asked your ministry and the Social Welfare Department about this in July of 2021. You guys said you couldn’t do anything because you had to wait for the police investigation. Then silence till now,” she said.
A netizen commented that Rina had allegedly only sprung into action after the involvement of a member of royalty.
“Imagine being a minister in charge of a whole ministry with the power to change laws and policies and the best you can do is to offer solidarity and even then only after a royal steps into the picture of what is happening,” said Twitter user @tifzlan_.
Many, including Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil, also expressed that Rina had only acted once she was faced with pressure.
This comes after Rina announced she was ready to request an audience with Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) and his wife Che Puan Khaleeda Bustamam to brief them on the status of the abuse trial involving 13-year-old Bella and present the measures that the ministry had taken to assist the trial.
TMJ had offered to provide his lawyers’ services for free to conduct a watching brief in the abuse trial, on behalf of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
The case is ongoing in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.
Rina accused of taking ‘photo op’
In her statement yesterday, Rina said the offer made by TMJ was helpful in efforts to uphold justice for Bella, adding that the ministry welcomed the offer and would work closely with his lawyers.
The statement, which was posted on social media, included a picture of her and a masked Bella.
A Tiktok video featuring clips of Rina’s visit with Bella, believed to have originated from the news portal Sinar Harian, has also been circulating online.
This also sparked the ire of netizens and activists, including Hartini, who labelled it a “photo opportunity”.
“Stop with the photo ops @RinaMohdHarun. It is not about you documenting proof that you care or you putting an act to ‘buat kerja’ (seen to be working). Insensitive and clueless on child protection,” she tweeted.
Another netizen pointed out that it was an inappropriate time to be visiting the victim.
“Bella is not ready to accept visitors or outsiders, so why bring reporters, videographers and photographers which could scare her?” tweeted @wahidahu55ain.
Suhakam children’s commissioner Noor Aziah Mohd Awal previously said that it was a criminal offence to share photos and videos that reveal the identity of child victims of crimes.
She said it violates Section 15 of the Child Act to publicly share photographs or videos that show the identity of the child victim.
Such a violation is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, an RM10,000 fine, or both.
Bella’s case went viral on social media last year when a woman claimed that the teenager was scalded with hot water and tied up while under the care of welfare home Rumah Bonda.
Following that, Rumah Bonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali, 30, was charged with two counts of neglecting and abusing the girl resulting in the victim sustaining physical and emotional injuries in a condominium in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur between February and June 2021.
The charges are under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment or an RM50,000 fine or both.
Siti Bainun pleaded not guilty to the charges. – Malaysiakini