S'porean principal of Malaysian childcare centre charged with abusing autistic child

Sharifah Mazlan pleaded not guilty to abusing the six-year-old at Maikidz Care Centre in Selangor.
Sharifah Mazlan pleaded not guilty to abusing the six-year-old at Maikidz Care Centre in Selangor.PHOTO: FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean woman in Malaysia was charged on Wednesday (Oct 13) 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 at 10am on Oct 1.

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

Its website stated that Sharifah had 16 years of teaching experience and that the centre offered training to parents and teachers on how to handle children with special needs.

But on Oct 3, the father of a six-year-old who attended the centre 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 at the centre.

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 then asked to see closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage.

The man posted photos of his son's bruises on Facebook, and also uploaded a 47-second video of the purported incident taken from the childcare centre's security cameras.

The video shows a woman trying to force feed a boy. As he protests, she raises her palm and he immediately shields his face with both his hands.

The boy then tries to run away but she grabs him and lifts him into the air before violently 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 that 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 on Wednesday that Sharifah was herself a mother of three children - two of them autistic.

She has been offered bail totalling RM18,000 (S$5,850) for the two charges 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.