Deputy home minister condemns handcuffing of migrant boy

Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman (centre) presenting a child safety seat to a young girl while Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh (second from right) and Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Frankie Poon (second from left) look on in Sepanggar today.

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman has condemned the handcuffing of a migrant boy in Lahad Datu recently and the subsequent sharing of the boy’s photo while being handcuffed and holding a toy gun.

Azis, however, said it had not been established if the culprits behind the viral photo were policemen.

“The Lahad Datu police chief had issued a statement saying they will identify the individual who took the photo and viralled it to the public.

“This is an action that is not supposed to be done by police personnel – if it was police personnel. We are still not sure if the person who snapped the photo and viralled it is a policeman,” he said.

In any case, the Sepanggar MP said, the action of handcuffing the boy and posting the photo online was wrong.

“We do not agree with this, more so as it involved the handcuffing of children – we will leave it to the police to probe,” Azis said.

He was speaking to reporters after a visit to his constituency near here today with Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh.

Yeoh also launched the “Jiwa Ibu” app, which is aimed at providing mothers access to health-related information. Also present was Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Frankie Poon.

On Wednesday, Lahad Datu police chief Nazri Mansor vowed stern action would be taken against his men, regardless of whether they were ordinary personnel or officers, after the photo of the boy in handcuffs went viral.

“We will probe who did it and who viralled the photo and take firm action against the individuals,” Nazri said.

Meanwhile, when contacted, Sabah police chief Zaini Jass said any policeman guilty of handcuffing the boy would face disciplinary action.

“The disciplinary board is looking into this. But we are still trying to establish who took the photo and viralled it,” he said.

The boy was arrested along with 14 women and children, all from the sea gypsy community, following another viral photo of the boy pointing a toy gun while begging in the streets.

Azis said there had been many complaints about sea gypsies, a nomadic community of seafarers known to live on boats in waters off Sabah’s east coast, intruding into the mainland.

“These people are sea gypsies, what do you expect out of them? We say ‘they have encroached into our area’ but the reality is their world is the ocean.

“Sometimes when we read in social media there are netizens who ask ‘who is actually intruding?’. All this while we ‘intrude’ into the waters but they never said anything – so there are mixed reactions to this,” he said.

Visa extension for Chinese tourists

Meanwhile, Azis said the Sabah government should consider extending the visa beyond the maximum seven days for Chinese tourists based on humanitarian grounds.

“We know that they are afraid to return home because of the ongoing coronavirus situation so, on a humanitarian basis, we should consider extending their visa.

“They come to our country, especially to Sabah, to spend their money here and now there is a disease in China so they are asking to stay a little longer.

“This is my personal view – I think the state government should consider but of course it is up to them. This is because the power of immigration in Sabah and Sarawak lies with the state governments,” he said.

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal had previously said that the visa could not be extended for more than a week as the state was not equipped to handle a coronavirus outbreak in Sabah.

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew said the seven-day extension was only valid for China tourists who arrived in Sabah before Jan 31, the day when Sabah suspended all scheduled and chartered flights from China.