Public outrage over abandoned baby case

National 4 minutes, 9 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

SOME members of the public have expressed their sympathy for the abandoned newborn discovered in a Lumapas rubbish dump last Thursday, saying that the baby should have been brought to a hospital instead.

Thirty-two year old Baihaqki Zulkifli, father of three, said that he did not understand why the newborn baby girl had to be abandoned by whoever that had been responsible.

“Even if you do not want the baby, just give it to someone who does, as some people are unable to have children. It is so pitiful as she is only a baby, a child that does not know anything,” Baihaqki said.

Similar statements were shared by businessman James Matthews, 31, who said that the incident was “appalling” and a “shame”.

According to a Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) spokesperson, this has been the first baby-dumping case in Brunei this year. There were two cases in 2012, five in 2011, six in 2010, and five in 2009.

An officer from the Community Development Department (JAPEM) told The Brunei Times that an abandoned baby is often handed over to the Action Team on Child Protection under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), as soon as they receive notice from the RBPF that an investigation has been closed — whereby the biological parents of the child could not be identified.

The committee then decides which foster family (among the waiting list of people held by the Department) is suitable to take in the baby, she said.

“Of course, (having a baby and then abandoning it) is wrong. They should not do that in the first place. There are a lot of reasons as to why people abandon their babies. I guess the most common reason is because the baby is an illegitimate child.

“Family may be embarrassed (‘malu’) about the whole affair, which leads to cases of the babies being abandoned and unclaimed,” she said. The officer added that it is really difficult to ascertain the exact cause of the issue, but does not attribute it to a lack of education, stating that there are awareness programmes held at schools.

However, 20-year-old Norevinah Jaib, an IGS College student, said that that she had never received any official sexual health or awareness education while she was in high school, or during the time that she has been attending college.

“Nowadays, it is normal for teenage girls do go out with their boyfriends, so I do think that sexual awareness education or programmes would be helpful,” she said.

“I am curious as to whether the [baby’s] mother was a teenage girl or a woman. I suppose she was scared. Still, it is so pitiful for the baby, which could have been sent by her mother to the hospital, which is so near,” Norevinah added.

Rehab counselor Christina Hong said baby-dumping was a disgrace to the community, and that she thought that education and discipline of the younger generation would help.

She further said that it was not so much of the government’s responsibility, but the responsibility of family when it comes to educating the youth about sex.

“I believe that the mother – or the couple – who abandoned the child probably cannot cope with the situation, or are not married, which might have been why they have abandoned the baby.

“(The younger generation) nowadays have sex freely, yet they have no idea about contraception. There should be more discipline by parents with regards to the upbringing of children,” she said.

Christina acknowledged that the Internet and instant messaging apps such as Whatsapp, is widely used nowadays, allowing people to freely contact each other and meet up. They might say they are going out with their friends, but could be meeting up with someone else instead.

Therefore, parents should be stricter, with regards to where their children are going, and who they are mixing with,” she said.

Teenagers are still too young to interact with the opposite sex and become too friendly with them, she concluded.

Meanwhile, Yeoh Chee Keong, 39, said that he would agree, to a certain extent, if the law was used against the parents responsible for the abandoned baby girl, should they be identified.

“It’s more of an educational standpoint though — it is the need to make them aware that it’s a life, she is a baby. The parents could have always turned the baby in anywhere, instead of just dumping her,” he said.

Yeoh also suggested a need for more awareness campaigns, through posters, the media or the Internet, which is so convenient and accessible. “There are still occurrences of baby-dumping happening, five or six is still a very high number,” he said.

A nurse from the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital said that the baby has been moved from the hospital to another location.

Both RIPAS Hospital, and the RBPF Women and Child Abuse Investigative Unit, have declined to comment, because the investigation is still pending.

The Brunei Times