‘She has not called me daddy for six days’

Vasanthapriya-1
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (right) having a chat with Muniandy Ratnam (with glasses) at the Seberang Jaya Hospital this evening.

SEBERANG PRAI: Muniandy Ratnam, whose 14-year-old daughter hanged herself after being accused of stealing her teacher’s mobile phone, longs to hear his daughter calling out to him.

Muniandy’s daughter, Vasanthapriya, has been in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Seberang Jaya Hospital for six days after she attempted to take her life, and is now in a stable but critical condition.

“The youngest (Vasanthapriya) loved me a lot. She was always with me.

“She has not called me daddy for six days. I hope she will wake up soon. We are praying for a miracle,” said the 54-year-old when met outside the ICU here this evening.

His wife, Malarvely Arjunan, 51, together with their three children, were waiting outside the ICU.

Calling Vasanthapriya his “anak manja”, Muniandy said his daughter spent a lot of time with him, and would often come and hug him, as well as sleep next to him.

“Also, after she returns from school, she would not only have a meal with me, but she would sometimes feed me. That was how close we were,” he said.

A passport size photograph of M. Vasanthapriya when she was 9. Muniandy Ratnam keeps the photograph in his wallet.
A passport size photograph of M. Vasanthapriya when she was 9. Muniandy Ratnam keeps the photograph in his wallet.

Muniandy said Vasanthapriya was like any teenager, citing an example of how a few months ago, she asked him for some money as she wanted to straighten her hair and look pretty in preparation for the Ponggal harvest festival which fell on Jan 14.

Muniandy then pulled out from his wallet a passport size photograph of his daughter when she was nine, and bragged about how pretty she was.

Muniandy said his daughter was now on life support, and that they were awaiting CT scan results.

“The doctor told us that Vasanthapriya’s vital organs, such as the kidney and liver are all normal. Her eyes and her brain are a bit slow in responsiveness.

“There is no movement in her hands and legs,” he said.

Muniandy also had some words of advice for the education department.

“Don’t let such an incident happen again in school. All the teachers must respect students.

“No matter what the situation, the proper standard operating procedure (SOP) must be used.

“I am not accusing the teacher of any wrongdoing. This is just my advice to the educationn department and teachers,” he said.

Muniandy was speaking to reporters after a brief visit by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng here.

Lim went in to the ICU at about 7.45pm and came out a short while later, after which Muniandy spoke to him about what had transpired pertaining to Vasanthapriya’s case.

He also presented RM1,000 to Muniandy and his family.

“I would like to express my sympathy and solidarity with the family. We see this poor girl, a bright and pretty girl in this condition. I am very sad that this happened.

“I hope the family can be strong in this very trying period. I hope and pray she will regain consciousness.

“The doctors have done everything they can. She is now breathing through a machine. We leave it to God. There is nothing more we can do,” he said.

Lim expressed hope that the relevant authorities, such as the police and the education department, can conduct a full investigation into this, and to keep the family informed.

“That is the least they can do. They need to find out what caused the girl to take such a drastic step. A very very drastic one,” Lim said.

Based on a police report lodged by a relative at the Prai police station, Vasanthapiriya, a student of SMK Methodist in Nibong Tebal, was called in for questioning by three teachers at 2pm last Wednesday.

One of them, a woman in her 40s, accused her of stealing her iPhone 6, the report said.

After the teen denied stealing the handphone, another teacher allegedly hit her on the back in full view of other students.

She was then allegedly confined to a room in the teachers’ office quarters for nearly five hours, without any food or toilet break.

At 6.45pm, the husband of the teacher who lost her handphone arrived at the school. The couple threatened to take her to the police if she did not admit to the alleged theft, the report said.

They then drove Vasanthapiriya to her house nearby to meet her parents. The teen ran up to her room, while her parents and the accuser left the house “to sort things out,” the report said.

It was then that Vasanthapiriya carried out her suicide attempt. Upon returning home at 8.20pm, her father broke into her room after repeated calls went unanswered.

She was found unconscious but alive, hanging on her “dupatta” (shawl) off an air-conditioning piping, with her legs in contact with the floor. Her shocked parents also discovered a suicide note written on a torn page of her school exercise book.

‘Teen accused of stealing teacher’s phone now brain dead’