CHILDREN IN MALAYSIA
Children are greatly valued. They are often spoiled when they are young and only introduced to traditionally deferential behavior and speech when they are older. Ill mannered children are dismissed as kurnag ajar, lacking education while well-mannered children are called budi bahasa, properly raised.
Adoption is fairly common in Malaysia. Childless couples are often given a child by one of their relatives to raise themselves. Having a child in necessary to participate in kampong activities like gift exchanging and feasting. According to the Malaysian government: “Adoption can be an enriching and fulfilling experience for both parents and child. When you adopt a child you are creating a family. It is not just a legal matter but one that involves deep human emotions. Adopting a child and experiencing parenthood are major steps in one's life.”
According to the Malaysian government “family planning enables a family to systematically plan the future of the children’s welfare as well as to safeguard the health of the mother and her children. Choosing the best time for having a baby is of utmost importance for improving birth quality and ensuring the health of both mother and baby. This is particularly so when the mother is not in perfect health, and is afflicted with high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes and asthma. As such, in order to avoid high-risk pregnancies, prevention of harmful factors and the treatment of infectious diseases are very important for pregnant women. Within 14 days of birth, a newborn has to be registered with the National Registration Department. Muslims are advised to refer directly to Muslim scholars before terminating a pregnancy so that it would be in line with Islamic principles. [Source: Malaysian Government]
In February 2007, the Malaysia government said it would assign hotel-style star ratings to registered childcare centers to help raise the quality of such services in the country. Associated Press reported: “The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said the rating system, to be launched in August, will assess the physical environment, programs, activities and parental involvement at 1,831 registered centers, the New Straits Times reported. Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was quoted as saying her officers would be better able to monitor the quality of child care centers using the system and help all the facilities reach at least three-star level, to ensure children were being cared for properly. [Source: AP, March 17, 2007]
See Separate Article EDUCATION IN MALAYSIA under Government, Infrastructure, Economics
Families and Young People in Malaysia
Nuclear families living in residences separated from their parents is the most common domestic set although extended families often live in the same house are not uncommon. For young people to live at home until they are married is often the norm.
According to the Malaysian Government: “For people encountering family problems, consultations are available from the Ministry for Women and Family Development or from the Islamic Religious Affairs Department for the Muslims.
Graduate unemployment levels are disproportionately high in Malaysia. According to latest available data, unemployed 21-24 year-olds made up about 61 percent of the total number of jobseekers in 2011. The Merdeka Centre poll in February found that 21-30 year olds were the group most worried about their personal finances. "Employers are looking for candidates who are outspoken, who can think creatively. But nowadays our graduates can't fulfil these expectations," one student activist told Reuters. [Source: Siva Sithraputhran and Anuradha Raghu, Reuters, April 29, 2013]
Baby Smuggling and Child-Trafficking in Malaysia
There were report of babies being smuggled into Malaysia by Indonesian syndicates in the early 2000s. The babies were brought by boats at a rate of about two a month. Most of the babies were between three and 12 months old and came from unmarried mothers or women who had been abandoned by their husbands. The babies were smuggled in compartments next to boat engines and were usually only brought in if a buyer was ready. Some babies died before reaching Malaysia.
In May 2008, Malaysia's police seized four infants from an baby-trafficking ring that purchased newborns from poor mothers and sold them to childless couples. Associated Press reported: “Authorities acting on a public tip detained 23 people, including customers seeking to buy babies, during raids on an illegal abortion clinic and four homes, said a police official in southern Johor state. The traffickers persuaded poor, unmarried women who sought abortions to deliver their children instead and sell them, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements.[Source: Sean Yoong, AP, May 25, 2008]
“Others arrested included a gynecologist and a government employee who allegedly forged identification documents for the infants, the official said. The Star newspaper said three Singaporeans were held. The New Straits Times newspaper reported the syndicate paid at least 700 ringgit (US$200) for each baby and sold them for up to 20,000 ringgit (US$6,000). Ethnic Chinese babies were the most popular, it said. Police were investigating how many babies had been previously sold. Welfare authorities took custody of the seized babies -- three boys and a girl all under 1-year old, the police official said. The suspects face charges including the unlawful transfer of children's custody, which is punishable by five years in prison.” [Ibid]
In December 2009, year, Malaysian police busted a baby-selling syndicate that had been operating for more than five years and arrested 13 people, including a doctor, and rescued five infants. A woman and her two daughters were charged with trafficking in babies. They face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty. Among those arrested were three Indonesian women. A two-month-old baby girl was rescued in Gombak.
The Star/Asia News Network reported: “According to sources, the bust was made possible due to a tip-off from a 40-year-old man, who had been approached by one of the Indonesian women on Christmas Day. The woman had told the man that the baby belonged to a relative who could not afford to keep the child and sought his help to look for a buyer. The baby allegedly came with a RM5,000 price tag. 'The man, who became suspicious of the woman, observed her for a few days before contacting the police,' said the source. [Source: The Star/Asia News Network, January 2, 2010]
“Police enlisted the help of the man in setting up an ambush by getting him to contact the woman for a meeting with the excuse that he had found a couple to buy the baby. The woman then led the man to the back of the house where the baby was kept, after which the police moved in. The rescued baby was sent to Selayang Hospital for a check up before being handed over to the Welfare Department.
Police sources did not rule out the possibility of more arrests. It is learnt that the police are investigating if this group is linked to the 'Klang baby factory', in which 22 people were arrested and nine babies and a toddler were rescued. The syndicate 'hired' women and made them sleep with men. Nine months later, they would 'harvest' the babies born and sell them to childless couples. The 'hired' women were from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam and the babies were sold for between RM15,000 (S$6,159) and RM20,000 or more, depending on the looks and health of the infant.
In July 2010, police have smashed a child-trafficking racket and rescued eight children and babies. AFP reported: “Police detained 16 suspects, including four Indonesian women, in a sting operation after an Indonesian woman was nabbed last Monday when she tried to sell a 23-day-old baby girl for 10,000 ringgit ($3590). In the latest operation, police rescued a four-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl and detained two Indonesian sisters, said to be the caretakers of the children. Police said they were yet to determine who was behind the group or whether the eight rescued children involved any foreigners. The eight children, including three infants, are aged between 23 days and 12 years. [Source: AFP, July 19, 2010]
"We are still investigating the case," said Huzir Mohamad, the criminal investigation department chief of eastern Sarawak, where the syndicate was busted. He said the police may seek co-operation from Indonesia to ascertain the role of the Indonesian women. The syndicates usually bought babies from poor local women, from neighbouring countries or from foreign maids in the country who were talked out of having abortions. They then sold them to childless couples.
Motorbikes and Teenagers in Malaysia
Reporting from Kuala Lumpur, John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The traffic light lingered red as the motorcycles congregated at a crowded downtown intersection -- engines revving, drivers fidgeting. Dozens more filtered through the idling cars to the makeshift starting line and soon there were 60 cycles in all, buzzing like angry insects. Then the light turned green and chaos ruled. In a renegade roar of noise and smoke, they were off. Teenage girls riding pillion held on tightly as their boyfriends popped wheelies, vying for show space, racing fast and furious into the humid October night. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]
“One rider turned his head back to confront cyclist Wazi Hamid, shooting him a defiant "Can you catch me?" glare before slicing left in front of a lumbering bus and careening in the wrong direction up a one-way side street. "I call it a motorized typhoon!" Hamid shouted over the wind's scream. "Racers love the sound of their bikes -- that 'waaaaah, waaaaah!' is music to their ears. As the night goes on, their maneuvers get more dangerous, the stunts get crazier and crazier." ^^
“Across Malaysia, weekend nights are omat rempit time. That's when tens of thousands of omat rempit, or illegal racers, take to the streets in a noisy show of daring, speed and questionable judgment. Factory workers and fry cooks, soldiers and students, these Malaysian Marlon Brando wannabes are typically bored teens with too little money and too much time in this orderly Muslim nation, experts say. ^^
“Police say the omat rempit have grown in number to an estimated 200,000 nationwide, other motorists as they compete for money, prestige and women. The racing scene is a two-wheeled version of Hollywood's "The Fast and the Furious" amped on steroids. Some thrill seekers turn violent and even deadly, authorities say. After a traffic accident with an illegal racer, a motorist was beaten to death in 2005 by a mob of cyclists. This year, omat rempit used their helmets to attack a driver after an accident in which a cyclist was killed.” ^^
“In Malaysia, small but speedy Japanese-made motorcycles are inexpensive, a fraction of the cost of a car. Youths may lack the money for discos or movies, but many can pump 5 ringgit, or less than $2, of gas into their tank and run the streets from dusk till dawn, with cash left over for cigarettes. "The speed is addictive," Hamid said. "You want to be the most skillful. Riders think: 'I'm a very bad man. I want to be the bravest, the best.' " ^^
“Hamid began riding a motorcycle when he was 12. Before long, he was street racing for bragging rights -- long before the practice became a national passion.He and other challengers performed stunts such as the "balance of death," riding on only the front tire, and the "highchair wheelie," sitting on the handlebars and leaning back to control the bike. They did headstands on their seats and drove with no hands. They raced on darkened highways without headlights, to see who was braver. "I look back on those days now and feel lucky I didn't get killed," said Hamid ^^
Efforts to Rein in Reckless Malaysian Teenager Bikers
John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, The government has “declared war on the youthful street subculture. Since the races became popular in the mid-1990s, scores of youths have been killed. The fatality rate has surged in recent years, leaving officials wondering, "Why only in Malaysia?" Authorities have imposed heavy fines, jail time and a lifelong driving ban, and they've forced repeat offenders to view the autopsies of crash victims. They've also considered confiscating motorcycles and outlawing the bikes within city limits and at major universities. "The omat rempit are very aggressive, sometimes even criminal," said Shafien Mamat, deputy of traffic enforcement for police here in the capital. "They're a major problem in our country. Motorists are afraid of them." [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]
“The slightly built Hamid, a father of four, calls many of the riders "my boys." He said, “You want these racers to stay in every night and play with their baby dolls and wear women's clothing so your streets can be emptier? These kids are not that kind of people. They're athletes and they're proud of who they are." Hamid sponsors several youth programs to defuse the problem: He invites the most skillful riders to join his motorcycle performance team as a way to earn money. For the rest, he offers free two-day seminars on bike safety. "You've got to talk to these kids," he said. "You have to show them some respect, rather than just strong-arm tactics. Increased enforcement should be used as a last resort. You can't destroy a culture just because you don't like it." ^^
“Hamid says all racers are unfairly lumped together as criminals and delinquents. Invited to take part in a recent government seminar on the issue, Hamid said he was the first racer asked to meet with Malaysian ministry officials. Hamid left the scene for the professional racing circuit and now competes throughout Asia and Europe." ^^
Reckless Teenager Bikers Become a Cultural Phenomena in Malaysia
John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The racers have also become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring a popular movie as well as a university study that sought to paint a portrait of the cyclists. One political party wants to turn the races into a tourist attraction. Rozmi Ismail, a psychologist at the National University of Malaysia who interviewed scores of omat rempit for the 2002 study, calls the practice a coming-of-age ritual. "It's a social rebellion," he said, "kids saying, 'We don't care about your laws.' " [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]
“Many illegal races are underground events akin to American rave parties, complete with sponsors who put up prize money. Others are spontaneous face-offs triggered by a stare or a challenge at an intersection. "This is Malaysia's showoff culture -- kids risking their lives for attention," the researcher said. "At age 18 they're all invincible, right?" Ahmad Idham, who directed the 2006 film "Remp-It," sought to show the racing culture for what it is: an exhilarating, sometimes deadly sideshow. "I didn't try to make these racers into supermen. They're just kids expressing their dissatisfaction with society through racing," he said. "Their skills are incredible. But in the end, one mistake and you die. And nobody cares about you anymore." ^^
“Wazi Hamid insists Malaysian society has misjudged the young motorcyclists. The 35-year-old former street-racer-turned-professional-motorcyclist has emerged as the maligned youth culture's biggest defender. Hamid says the daredevil stunts suggest a deeper societal problem: blue-collar youth who feel ignored by their own culture. "It's a last resort of underprivileged kids with nothing to do and nowhere to go," he said.” ^^
A Night Out for Reckless Teenager Malaysian Bikers
John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “On a recent Saturday night, Hamid toured downtown streets saturated with the acrid odor of thousands of motorcycles. By night's end, a 21-year-old would be stabbed to death in an early-morning face-off between omat rempit. Outside Kuala Lumpur, two 15-year-olds were killed during a race on a rural back road. Neither boy had a driver's license, police said. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]
“But at midnight, the night was still young. Near City Hall, several riders parked their cycles on the sidewalk. With sullen looks, they watched other racers storm a 10-block circuit with reckless abandon, many ignoring the traffic lights in a heated hurry to go nowhere. When asked about it, a cabdriver moved a hand frantically back and forth like a motorcycle moving through traffic: "Zip, zip, zip, zip. Why? Motorcyclists used to have to look out for cars. Now we have to watch out for them." ^^
“Nearby, two young men slouched atop a 110-cc Honda to watch the action. Joehan Mohammed, 20, works two jobs, as a dispatch driver and restaurant worker. He called racing a release from the real world. "I work hard -- this is my freedom," he said. "On my bike, I can go anywhere." His best friend, Wan Johari, also 20, frowned. "The police treat us all like criminals," said the woodworker, cigarette in hand, baseball cap worn backward. "That's not who I am." ^^
“Within minutes, two police officers approached the men, demanding licenses and insurance papers. They threatened to confiscate their bikes unless the riders moved. Hamid shook his head in disapproval. "They're just young -- is it a crime to be young? I know that woodworker. He's a creative kid. Why don't Malaysian authorities try and get to know him, help him get through those uncomfortable years between 18 and 25 and emerge a healthy adult? "Instead, what do they do? They get out their ticket books." Not far away, a traffic light turned green and another race was on.” ^^
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated June 2015