September 24, 2010

MALAYSIA: Grandpa Arokiasamy: "I am not a thief"

PETALING JAYA, Selangor / The Malay Mail / Life / September 24, 2010

"I am not a thief"

Says Grandpa Arokiasamy who was jailed for 10 days for shoplifting

By T.K. Letchumy Tamboo

KAJANG:  "I am not a thief. I have never been a thief and I am definitely not intending to become one," said I. Arokiasamy (pic) , the 64-year-old grandfather who was jailed for 10 days last week, for stealing cans of food and packets of drinks from a supermarket.

Arokiasamy, who completed his sentence yesterday, said it was not his intention to steal from The Store supermarket in Pudu Plaza, KL, where he was nabbed for shoplifting 15 cans of food and drink packets worth RM99.29.

"I went to the supermarket to buy some food for my family. I had RM40 with me at the time. While I was putting the food cans into a bag, I was thinking of making ends meet for my family. As my eyesight is poor, I also could not make out clearly the price tags on the food items. I kept filling up the bag until I felt it was enough and I walked out of the store, completely forgetting to pay," he told The Malay Mail upon walking out from Kajang prison here.

When asked why he did not hand the money he had with him when he was stopped, he said that he was too shocked to do so.

"I am old and forgetful. I never stole anything before," said Arokiasamy who also suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and fading eyesight.

The unemployed man also said his favourite pastime was sipping teh tarik at stalls near his son's house in Jalan Hang Tuah, KL where he stays with his son's family.

"I always sit at the food stalls near my house. Sometimes, I go to shops to buy food for my family," he said.

When asked if he informs his family about his whereabouts whenever he goes out, Arokiasamy said he seldom does that because the places he visits are usually near his son's one-room flat.

"It is not necessary for me to inform them every time I go out. In fact, my family knows the places I frequent," he said.

On release, the weak and forlorn-looking Arokiasamy, who said he was treated well by jail wardens, was received by his son Vijayakumaran, 30.

"I am happy my father has been released. Those 10 days were anxious ones for us, and empty without him. We missed him. After this, we won't let him out of our sight," said Vijayakumaran, who has five children, as he held his father's hand firmly and guided him towards a waiting car.

Vijayakumaran is the sole breadwinner of the family, earning RM1,100 a month as a security guard at a company in Kuchai Lama.

Arokiasamy's plight came to the public's attention after he was sentenced for his offence.

The Malay Mail carried a follow-up story on his plight and the story touched many of our readers' hearts and it quickly gained the status as one of our most viewed and commented stories on our website.

A reader called Dee, read: "This is a very sad story especially for us Muslims during this month of Syawal. Irrespective of race and religion, what more considering his health conditions. Hope the the authorities do something for this poor family?"

Another comment by an anonymous reader, read: "This is truly a sad and troubling incident indeed. Sure it is wrong to steal, but I can understand why he stole. As a father, his love for his son and family outweighs his own needs, much more so towards the end of the month when money usually runs short. This is a very common thing which happens to many families. He just wanted to do something for his family. But he had no money. So what could he do? Stole to feed the family and pray he would not be caught. This is the sad part of being poor in a society where there is a wide gap between the rich and the less fortunate."

Since publication of the story, the Malay Mail's office in Section 19, Petaling Jaya has been receiving a stream of calls and e-mails from concerned readers who want to help the family.

Coincidentally, one of our readers is a counselor at the Federal Territory Social Welfare Department and he contacted us to obtain the family's house address.

"We have to take a holistic approach in this case. We need to interview the man and talk to him as we need to understand the situation that he is in," said the counselor.

The Malay Mail learnt that two officers from the Federal Territory Social Welfare Deparment visited Arokiasamy last Wednesday with a promise of help.

Copyright 2009 Malay Mail Sdn. Bhd.