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A Big Death of a small girl

© UNICEF Malaysia/2007/Nadchatram

By Timothy Lim

Fourteen year old Timothy Lim is an avid writer, often jotting his observations of the world around him. He is equally passionate about helping children who are less fortunate than him. Since eight years old, Timothy has used his talents and skills, including swimming to raise funds for orphans and children living with HIV and AIDS in Malaysia. Timothy is currently studying in Australia, having obtained a scholarship from Geelong Grammar School. In addition to his interest in current affairs, Timothy also plays tennis and the saxophone.

On the first anniversary of the UN Secretary General’s Report on Violence Against Children, Timothy shares with us how communities must come together to protect children and young people from violence.

KUALA LUMPUR, 3 October 2007 – When eight year-old Nurin Jazlin was abducted on 22 August, she was on her way to the night market which was close to her house. Her story rocked the Malaysian public and I, like many others, was shocked as to how this could have happened.

More and more Malaysians were horrified as this woeful tragedy unfolded. A post-mortem showed that young Nurin Jazlin was sexually assaulted. Government leaders, NGOs, the media as well as the men and women on the street have been vocal in their condemnation.

Parents now cringe at the thought of letting their children leave the house unaccompanied by adults. Our freedom is curtailed, and instead fear is instilled in our young minds. Is this the way we want our nation’s young to be nurtured?

As important as finding the culprit is the uncovering of the causes that contributed to this heinous act. The media reported that witnesses had seen Nurin Jazlin being dragged forcibly into a white van shouting tak nak tak nak (don’t want, don’t want). Since the night market was in her neighbourhood and she probably frequented it regularly, surely people would have been able to recognise her and realise that something was amiss. Why didn’t they do anything? What kind of attitude are we promoting in Malaysia?

In trying to understand the tragedy that befell Nurin Jazlin, I tried to put myself in her shoes to explore how I would feel under such circumstances. Yes, I would feel very safe walking to a nearby market if it is something I had done most of my early childhood. I would enjoy greeting people that have been running their stalls from as early as I could remember. And if a stranger grabbed me, I would scream and shout for passers-by to help and I would expect some response. I think Nurin Jazlin did too.

“In an ideal world, a proactive Malaysian would have wondered why a young girl was being forced into a van by people who were not her parents."

In an ideal world, a proactive Malaysian would have wondered why a young girl was being forced into a van by people who were not her parents. In an ideal world, one if not more witnesses would have taken the number plate of the van and immediately reported the incident to the police. I am sure this would have caused the perpetrators to be caught before they took away a precious life.

If I were in such a situation, I would be extremely distressed and confused. I would be also very scared. But also hopeful I would be saved. I wonder if Nurin Jazlin was ever hopeful in those minutes and hours after she was abducted? I also wonder what those witnesses were thinking when they turned their backs on that struggling little girl.

This incident raises the issue of parental responsibility and community responsibility. Where does each start and stop? As a young person whose parents love me as much as I am sure Nurin Jazlin’s parents love her, I believe it is totally understandable that her parents did not realise the horrid danger that was lurking in the night market that fateful evening.

I hope that this incident will not cause “shocked” parents across the country to have a knee-jerk reaction, prohibiting their children from exploring their surroundings without mommy next to them. This, I think, is where community responsibility starts. It is the role of all adults in my community to ensure that children and young people like me can feel safe in the neighbourhoods we live in.

In the wake of Nurin Jazlin’s death, I propose three steps as to how Malaysia as a whole community can be made more aware and engaged to prevent more violence against my peers and I:

§ NGO’s have a huge role to play in advocating public concerns to those in authority as well as in generating awareness of community and parental responsibility. NGO’s however, have a small reach as compared to the media.

§ It is imperative therefore that the media get involved in putting articles on child safety in newspapers, interviews on the radio and even informative commercials on the television. It is not enough to just report a tragedy but to provide regular information and education on child safety.

§ And finally, I hope our Government will implement policies and far-reaching programs to foster greater community responsibility to protect children and adolescents like me from violence.

Nurin Jazlin’s death is but another example on how we as Malaysians fail each other. Those who stand out and speak up are thought of as busybodies. This saddens my heart and dims my outlook at us as a nation.

We should celebrate those who help others in need, those who take the initiative, those who are proactive. Most importantly, those people who in the future will stop that white van taking that little girl away.

 

 

 

 

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