S'porean accused of abusing autistic child in Malaysian centre

A Singaporean woman in Malaysia was charged yesterday with allegedly abusing an autistic boy and overstaying. Sharifah Mazlan, 51, the principal of Maikidz Care Centre in Selangor, immediately pleaded not guilty to abusing the six-year-old at the centre on Oct 1.

The childcare centre focuses on children with special needs and had seven autistic children under its care at the time.

On Oct 3, the father of the six-year-old alleged that Sharifah had abused his son. He said his son would sometimes return home with bruises on his face and body, but he initially thought these were due to the boy bumping into things. It was only on Oct 1, when he found marks on his son's back, that he felt something was amiss. He asked the centre how his son came to be bruised and asked to see security camera footage. The man posted photos of his son's bruises on Facebook, and also uploaded a 47-second video of the purported incident.

The video shows a woman trying to force feed a boy. As he protests, she raises her palm and he shields his face. The boy then tries to run away. But the woman grabs him and lifts him into the air before slamming him onto the chair and pushing it, causing the boy to lurch forward into a table.

The post alleged that the woman in the video was Sharifah.

The incident caused outrage among Malaysian netizens, drawing the ire of Malaysia's Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Rina Mohd Harun, who said firm and swift action would be taken.

Sharifah was arrested on Oct 3.

Preliminary investigations by the Malaysian authorities found the centre, which has been operating for seven years, had a licence that expired two months ago. Sharifah was also allegedly an overstayer with an expired social visit pass.

On Monday, the Malaysian police issued a statement saying its investigations were completed.

Malaysian media reported that it was revealed in court yesterday that Sharifah was herself a mother of three children - two of them autistic. She was offered bail totalling RM18,000 (S$5,855) and is expected to be back in court on Dec 9.

If convicted of neglecting a child in Malaysia, Sharifah may be jailed for up to 20 years and fined. Overstayers in Malaysia may be jailed for up to five years, fined up to RM10,000 and receive up to six strokes of the cane.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'S'porean accused of abusing autistic child in Malaysian centre'. Subscribe