Malaysian woman force-fed Down syndrome girl with chillies, witness says

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KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The founder of a welfare home held down the chin of a girl with Down syndrome and force-fed her fried rice that was mixed with a lot of chillies, a Malaysian court was told in a shocking abuse case that came to light in 2021.

Siti Bainun Ahd Razali, owner of the Rumah Bonda welfare home, has been accused of severely abusing 13-year-old Bella whose story went viral on social media after an individual revealed that she was found with burn marks on her chest, hands, neck and thighs, in addition to several other injuries.

Ms Suhana Zam, 40, a witness in the case, testified on Monday (June 13) that there was more chilli than rice on Bella's plate when she was sitting at a dining table in a condominium unit watching Siti Bainun feed the victim.

"Bella was standing facing Siti Bainun in front of the refrigerator and there was a wooden bench there. I saw Bainun (put out) a plate of fried rice and a lot of cut chilli, much more than the fried rice," said the legal research officer.

"She (Siti Bainun) mixed the fried rice, she held Bella's chin and forced the girl to eat it. Bella refused but was forced to eat," Bernama quoted Ms Suhana as saying.

"I was surprised to see Bella being treated like that, I didn't say anything because I didn't want to confront Bainun face to face. I was worried about her reaction if confronted," Ms Suhana said during the examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor, Ms Nor Azizah Mohamad, at the trial of Siti Bainun's case.

In previous proceedings, Rumah Bonda resident Yasmin Nahar Mahmood, 18, told the court that Bella had been fed a pot of rice mixed with vinegar, turmeric, salt, soy sauce, chilli and chilli flakes, as well as rotten fried chicken, by Siti Bainun during the fasting month.

Meanwhile, Ms Suhana said she saw a palm-sized bruise on the right side of Bella's face when she went to Siti Bainun's house on June 13, 2021.

"I went to the house because Siti Bainun invited me to eat king crabs in "shell out" style. When I arrived at the house at 5pm, I saw Bella's hair cut short. She was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and looked scared. There was a bruise the size of a palm on the right side of her face. That was the worst condition I'd ever seen Bella in," said the witness.

The eighth prosecution witness said that during her stay at the house, Bella's meal times were irregular. The teenager was also punished by having to stand for hours by Siti Bainun. Ms Suhana said she did not see anyone giving the girl any food or drink.

To Ms Nor Azizah's question about Bella's condition when the teenager was not given food and drink for hours, Ms Suhana said the girl stood alone and could not speak.

Ms Suhana added that Siti Bainun told her that Bella was not allowed to drink, as she would urinate.

"I wanted to give food and drink to Bella but I wasn't sure if my actions would anger Siti Bainun. I was also scared of not following the house rules. It is Siti Bainun's house."

Ms Suhana also said Siti Bainun's house was not easily accessible because visitors had to get a bar code to enter the lobby of the condominium.

Siti Bainun, 30, faces two counts of neglecting and abusing the girl, causing the victim to suffer physical and emotional injuries.

She is charged with committing the offences at a condominium in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, between February and June 2021.

The charge was framed under Section 31 (1) (a) of the Child Act 2001, and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment or a fine of RM50,000 (S$15,750), or both, if convicted.

The trial before Judge Izralizam Sanusi continues.

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