KOTA KINABALU: The influx of foreigners into Sabah has led to alarming “cultural” changes in the state. One among them is the increasing number of cases of native single mothers which can be attributed to their foreign husbands abandoning them.
A recent case that highlighted this was when a Pakistani was jailed for 12 years and ordered to be given six lashes of the cane for assaulting his local Sabahan wife with a machete.
Khalid Nawab Lal Nawab, 31, was initially sentenced to eight years' jail and four lashes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife Asnah Toling, 40, on the night of May 6, 2009 in a flat near here.
But Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum brought the matter to light when he took a far more serious view of the offence when the prosecution appealed the sentence as inadequate.
He allowed the prosecution's appeal against the sentence imposed by the Sessions Court on the self-employed man after considering the facts and circumstances of the case.
"This is a sad case, as it involved family but this court must not lose sight that a serious offence had been committed.
"For a man to mutilate a woman is abhorrent in my view and for this to be done by a husband is despicable as he is supposed to protect the wife from all harm," he said.
'Clear message must be sent'
Malanjum said a clear message must be sent to would-be alien wife beaters that if convicted, they would face the full force of the law.
He also held that Khalid in pleading guilty and thus saving the court time was a secondary issue because the essential point was that the sentence must reflect the gravity of the offence committed.
He said the Sessions Court judge was in fact not even sure if Khalid was provoked or not.
"Considering the injuries sustained by the wife and the nature of the offence and the facts and circumstances in this case, I am of the view that the sentence imposed on Khalid is grossly inadequate," said Malanjum.
The offence under the Penal Code carries a jail term of up to 20 years and whipping.
Earlier, senior federal counsel Salim Soib had submitted that according to the doctor who treated the wife, the latter could have died had she not receive prompt attention.
He also told the court that Khalid, who was arrested two months after the incident, had only pleaded guilty after it was revealed that the prosecution had eight witnesses who testify against him.
Many runaway husbands were foreigners or new Malaysians who marry locals to obtain permanent stay or even citizenship. Once naturalized as citizens, they abuse their wives leading to many women leaving their husbands. Those who stay on suffer domestic violence and some even die as a result.
Malaysian laws provide that husband get the assets of the wife who die interstate or without a will. In Islamic family law, the husband gets a larger portion than the children if any.
Some foreigners use local women to apply for a trading license.
When business fails or loans taken are not repaid to financial institutions or money lenders, the local women are left to fend for themselves.
Native dominated political parties like Upko, PBRS and PBS have campaigned against the influx and the naturalization of foreigners from refugee or economic migrant status.
The growing number of native women marrying foreigners especially those seeking permanent stay or citizenship in Sabah is feeding local politicians’ zeal to bring a halt to such incidents.