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Witness #8 | Alya*

My name is Alya. I come from [a village in Sabah]. Currently, I am living on my own, with my four children.

One of them is studying in university, another child lives in a dormitory, and the other two children live with me.

This story began in 2003 when my husband started to neglect me. He was absent from home, always going out. He left in the morning and only returned at night.

When he obtained land in 2004, he started to show his true colours and his character. After we had a quarrel, I moved back to [my father’s] house. It was a huge fight. He hit me, causing bruises on various parts of my body. So I moved back to my father’s house. During the entire time I was living with my father, [my husband] did not bother to visit, or even to enquire how we were doing.

So I went with my brother to [a city in Sabah] for a few months. [My husband] then coaxed me to return to live with him, for reasons I did not know. But I returned anyway, because my first child was already approaching pre-school age.  

When I returned, I realised the reason he had wanted me to come back. He cajoled me to sign a letter, some forms, and more forms — I didn’t even know whose forms they were. He kept putting pressure on me, forcing me to sign them, so I had to give in and sign the documents. I still didn’t know what they were for. Eventually I found out those documents I signed were to enable him to legally marry a second wife, without my knowledge. After he married her, I still had to live with him until his new house had been completed.

During those few years, he would come back approximately once a week — probably just to give the impression that he was a responsible man.  

And that’s how it was for a few years, until I attended a seminar organised by the [Department of Orang Asli Affairs], which gave me the impetus to file a complaint at the court. Initially, I only lodged a complaint at the court in [name of first town]. All I received was advice, and my husband was also only given advice. For the next few years, nothing changed. My husband’s unfair behaviour was still unfair, as he did not provide the necessary nafkah (financial support) for us.

As a result, a few years later I lodged another complaint. The ADO (Assistant District Officer) suggested that I go to the court in [name of second town] to get my case heard, in 2010 … 2011… 2012, more or less.

The case was then heard. The judge pronounced judgment, and my husband agreed. In reality, however, he remained unchanged after the court hearing. He still failed to provide financial support, a home for us, and necessities. His attitude has become worse, he no longer even makes the effort to come back. I feel that he really does not care anymore, maybe because he is unhappy that he was prosecuted in court. Even now, with my fourth child, he has become worse than how he was before.

I think even the villagers can see the stark difference in the way he treats his second wife and the lifestyle he provides her, and the way he treats me.

Interviewer: What about the threats you had mentioned earlier?

He had threatened me during the time of the proceeding in [the first court]. On two occasions he came to the house. The first time, he threatened to divorce me if I did not withdraw the case. The second time, he made the same threat. But I was determined to continue with the court proceeding, because he objected to it. I wanted it to be like a lesson to him, but still nothing changed.

Interviewer: Did the [first court] take any action?

That’s the difficulty, I could not go, and I could not update the court. Caution has to be taken when going into town or to other places. My husband said there is no need for me to go into town, as there are no matters to attend to there.  

Interviewer: The court didn’t send anything?

There was nothing from the court. The court did not call, and did not send any letters, or even if there were, but nothing reached me. The [second court] informed me that any information has to be directed to the [first court], as that was the relevant district. But it is my mistake, that I did not provide an update to the [first court]. I don’t know whether it is possible to do so now.

Interviewer: Do you know if any reports are still being kept? 

I think maybe; I do hope so. Even now, if I want to go into town, for example to run errands, he will make all kinds of excuses — he will say he has a lot of work to attend to, he has other matters to handle, or he will let me know later. Now there is really a matter to attend to in the welfare office, to renew the card. It is already late, since August, but whenever I bring it up, he says that we will go next week, and then he says the following week. Till now, this has not been settled, but in fact I have seen that he goes into town often.


This is a translation of the original testimony in Bahasa Malaysia.

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