Malaysian holiday turns into nightmare for three Indians
A short holiday to Malaysia turned into a nightmare for three Indians who spent 18 days in detention despite having valid travel papers.
They were nabbed for reasons not explained by authorities and on release, found their belongings and money missing.
K Meenakshi, 52, a farmer, Sheikh Rajendran, 40, a tailor and P Murugesan, 24, a carpenter, said they had been saving up for a long time to visit Malaysia, a country that they had heard so much about from friends who had visited earlier.
All three were at the Selangor Mansion block of flats in Jalan Masjid India neighbourhood when members of a civil volunteer corps, Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia (Rela), conducted a raid March 15.
The Malaysian government formed Rela, which means volunteers of Malaysian people. Its main duty is to check the travel documents and immigration permits of foreigners in Malaysian cities, including tourists, visitors and migrants to reduce the increasing influx of illegal immigrants into Malaysia.
The group's actions, that have caused harassment to many, have been criticised.
The Malaysian government should immediately take steps to dissolve Rela, "responsible for numerous cases of illegal detentions, unlawful use of force, and extortion", the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in May last year.
"I was sleeping in a room when they came at 1.30 am I had a copy of the passport in my pocket and showed it to them. I kept telling them that the original was inside my bag, which was in the same room. But they did not understand me," Meenakshi told the New Straits Times.
Sheikh, who was with him in the room, was also arrested.
Murugesan said he had just finished eating and had gone downstairs to throw away the paper used to pack food when a Rela member stopped him.
"I told him my passport was upstairs but he refused to let me get it or come with me to take it. He told me to wait with others and later took us to a camp in a lorry," said Murugesan.
They spent 18 days in the Semenyih camp, which they described as the worst place that they had ever been.
"The conditions in the camp were bad. The food was terrible and I was so afraid to eat. I spent days not touching the food at all. It was not fit for human consumption," said Sheikh.
They were "rescued" when a Malaysian businessman, T Kamalanathan, came to the camp and negotiated for their release.
"I was at my shop when a few Indian nationals approached me and told me to help bring out their friends from the camp," said Kamalanathan.
He added that the Indian nationals should have been produced in court within 24 hours or even after the 14 days' remand. He claimed that the immigration officers had also been unhelpful.
"I had about 2,500 renminbi ($1,200 approx.) in the bag. The money and my return flight ticket were missing," said Meenakshi, adding that the other two also lost their money and belongings.
Sheikh said his friends found his torn passport in a nearby dustbin.