Malaysian slave called mum from brother's house

Malaysian slave called mum from brother's house

LONDON - Siti Aishah Wahab (picture), the Malaysian woman said to be one of three held as slaves by a Maoist sect in South London, had on her last visit to her brother's house in London, spoken on the phone to her mother in Malaysia.

Even that was after being given the nod of approval by an Indian man who accompanied her there.

This was revealed in a phone interview with her sister-in-law, Halimaton Tahir, wife of Siti Aishah's brother Mohd Tahir, who was then based in London.

According to Halimaton, there were two visits to their home in Bayswater.

"It was quite a surprise when we received a phone call saying that she wanted to visit. The eldest brother had tried to contact her earlier," she said.

It was during the second visit that they asked whether they could phone Malaysia so that she could talk to her mother.

Siti Aishah looked at the Indian man and only when he nodded did they make the call. That was the last call to the mother and her last visit to her brother's house.

According to Tahir, even when the mother came to London to meet Siti Aishah, there was no response from her.

Tahir said when he saw her, she was dressed in Chinese clothes and a black jacket. She was accompanied by two others, including the Indian man.

"At that time, I understood that people were looking for him. I am sure she does not have a Malaysian passport and now, it will depend on the British government.

"I suppose I will be happy for her to come back," said Tahir, the youngest in the family.

He said Siti Aishah had been a Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) scholar, but failed her examinations. Mara then withdrew the scholarship. "My brother sent her money for her to further her studies, but she returned it."

Halimaton said the family cooked local dishes whenever Siti Aishah visited to remind her of home.

However, she said, the family could see that Siti Aishah's mindset had changed.

Tahir cautioned her against trying to influence others in the family, to which she complied.

Siti Aishah's sister, Kamar Mahtum, left for London last night, accompanied by former student activist Hishamuddin Rais and the Daily Telegraph's South Asia Editor Dean Nelson.

However, she declined to be interviewed and appeared baffled at the crowd of reporters waiting for her at the airport.

Hishamuddin, meanwhile, said Kamar was his former teacher and a close family friend.

Kamar told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph that Siti Aishah had caused the family extreme heartache when she disappeared.

Siti Aishah had been allegedly held captive by the leaders of a 1970s communist collective for 30 years.

"She had studied at one of Malaysia's most elite schools and secured herself a Commonwealth scholarship to study surveying in London," said Kamar.

Siti Aishah first moved to Britain with her fiance, Omar Munir, in 1968, which was a time of increasing social unrest, with growing protests against the Vietnam War, the paper reported.

The couple were soon attracted to an organisation called the Malaysian and Singaporean Students Forum.

It had a reputation for being one of the more extreme Maoist groups operating in London.

Siti Aishah left behind her dream of having an exciting career and a family.

She fell under the spell of Aravindan Balakrishnan and his partner, Chanda, who were arrested on suspicion of holding three women against their will for more than three decades in South London last week, said the paper.

Kamar, who was interviewed at her house here, said the dying wish of their mother, Rahimaton Mohd Hassan, was to find out what had happened to Siti Aishah.

"I felt so lost without her. She was so talented, she was the apple of my mother's eye.

"My mother asked for Siti Aishah on her death bed," she said, adding that Siti Aishah had refused to get in touch with the family when their mother died.

Siti Aishah's family said the Malaysian government became aware of her political activities in London and had warned her in the 1970s that it would make it difficult for her to return home.

"Siti Aishah had cut herself off from everybody, her relationship and her family, and lived in the collective.

"She remained with them, was financially dependent on them, had no friends and became increasingly reliant on them," a former member of the group was quoted as saying by the paper.

He said Siti Aishah's self-confidence was chipped away when she was with the sect, and that members were made to feel intellectually inferior and became dependent on group living.

The former member described it as being "as good as being in prison".

Additional reporting by Azura Abas and Zafira Anwar

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