Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Time To Get Tough With Illegal Disabled Centres

Deceased teenager's grieving family - pix by Malay Mail

We refer to the recent newspaper reports of abuse of an illegal disabled centre in Petaling Jaya.

The murder and sexual abuse of a 19-year-old autistic individual in a disabled centre in PJ recently was a most regretful incident to have ever happened in our society today.

The Welfare Department was right to swiftly move in and order the closure of the troubled centre whilst the police continue their investigations of the circumstances and background to what led to the death of the teenager.
Whilst that is being done, we at PETPOSITIVE are deeply concerned about all other handicapped and elderly centres - not just in PJ - but throughout the nation.

The Welfare Department must work closely with the respective local councils - and vice versa - to ensure that all illegal centres are properly registered or eradicated.

The laws must be so strict - and enforced without fear or favour - so that no outfits for the disabled or the elderly should be allowed to run purely for profit alone.

Care centres have the obligation and responsibility to make sure that their services for their target groups meet up with the highest standards that promote the best quality of life; and not give lame excuses if they fail that they are unable to do so because of lack of funds or public support.

These include ensuring that their buildings meet the proper standards of accessibility for handicapped and elderly people. All care centres should also provide basic health services when required and certainly, immediate treatment to doctors when necessary.

Centres for the learning disabled such as autism to down syndrome and other mental disabilities should have trained staff in special skills education to assist them.

If this is not always possible, at least such experts should be accessible to them at any time.

At least one person, preferably the manager should be skilled in special education knowledge.

This is an even more important requisite especially for residential care centres.

If centres are not able to provide this essential need, then they should not be involved in the care of learning disabled persons.

Local councils should never give permits to outfits that don't provide for these basic facilities.

The Welfare Department, on its part, should also reject applications outright that do not comply to these fundamentals and not pass the buck to local councils or other departments like the Fire and Health Departments to decide.

The various departments should also make a conscious effort to educate and keep themselves up-to-date with disabled peoples' latest special needs requirements from time to time in their professional assessments.

For instance, in case of a fire, a person with a learning disability may suddenly go into a "deep freeze" mode or even run to the direction of the fire in the confusion instead of escaping from it.

Many of them do not know how to use a proper stairway in case of an emergency. So buildings, for example, that have more than one floor are not suitable to be a centre.
When checking on homes for the learning disabled, the Welfare Department must work hand-in-hand - and always together - with the Ministry of Special Education when deciding upon approvals of learning disabled centres.

We understand that this does not always happen as far as both the entities are concerned. 

NGOs for the disabled, particularly those that are run by the disabled, should also be invited into the team to make more informed decisions about the running of handicapped centres.

Parents, on the other hand, as difficult as it is for them, should think twice before enrolling their disabled children in illegal homes that ignore the basic needs and human rights of their child.    
These are certainly preventive measures to take rather than waiting for a tragedy to happen before action is taken.

We must not allow the young autistic boy's death to be in vain.  

Anthony SB Thanasayan
The Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and the Elderly Association (PETPOSITIVE), Kuala Lumpur.

Home caretaker charged with autistic teen's murder

No plea recorded from accused in Brian Goh Kah Heng's death
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 12:50:00
Tirupathi Sivagnanam
THE ACCUSED: Thirupathi, an Indian national, did not record any plea in court today

PETALING JAYA: Following the death of an autistic teen who was believed to have been sexually abused and murdered, a man was charged with murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code at the Magistrate's Court here today.

The accused, Tirupathi Sivagnanam, 26, was arrested on Oct 26.

No plea was recorded when the charge was read out.

The deceased's mother, Elizabeth Chin, 50, was also present at the court this morning.
"We would like to request a new mention date as we have to wait for the results of the chemistry report," deputy public prosecutor Rehab Abdul Shukur said.

Justice Mohamad Ibrahim Mohammad Ghulam fixed Jan 5, next year, as the new mention date and will transfer the case to the High Court.

Tirupathi, who worked at the home as a caretaker, was accused of committing the offence about 10.30am to 11.30am at No 38, Jalan 18/19 Taman Kanagapuram, Petaling Jaya.

Tirupathi faces the mandatory death penalty if found guilty.

On Oct 24, 19-year-old Brian Goh Kah Heng was found dead and believed to be physically and sexually abused by his caretakers. He was believed to have died in the shelter for the mentally disabled.

A post-mortem revealed Brian had severe bruises on various parts of his body, including extensive damage to his liver. It was also reported there were signs of sodomy.

The deceased's brother, Jonathan Goh, 21, said in earlier reports the family received a call about 11.30am on Sunday from a caretaker informing the family Brian was having breathing difficulties.

The Malay Mail had reported that four workers gave their statements at the Petaling Jaya police station about 1.30pm and one was subsequently detained for further questioning.
Brian Goh Kah Heng's family
SUPPORTIVE: Elizabeth (second from right) and family members being consoled by police officer R. Rukumar — Pics: Hussein Shaharuddin

On Oct 28, The Paper That Cares reported the care centre would be closed after a notice was given by the Welfare Department.

In the report, it was stated the home was run by a person who only wanted to be identified as 'Walter'. Walter had said a committee meeting would be held to discuss the incident. He had claimed the meeting could not be held earlier as the committee members were all overseas.

On Nov 2, the 28-year-old welfare home staff who was remanded for seven days to assist police investigation into Brian's murder had been extended for seven more days.

Petaling Jaya district police chief ACP Arjunaidi Mohamad had said the remand order would end today, revealing they were "on the verge of completing the investigation and were only waiting for a report from the Chemistry Department, which will include a health report of the deceased".

READ: Autistic teen's death opens 'can of worms'
READ: 'He deserves a second chance, if he is truly sorry...'
READ: Care centre staff's remand order extended

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