Strangers in their own town

At the age of 55, Piak feels as if he is a stranger in Bangkok.

He sleeps in Lumpini Park and calls the public park “home”. However, people in his “home” do not want to know him.

Before he lost his job and needed to move out of his rental accommodation, he had been working as a vendor in Bangkok’s central business area.

“I always feel as if people look through me, hardly see me exist at all. Despite the fact we share the same space, we are of different social ranks,” said Mr Piak.

Piak is one of about 90 people whom Lumpini park officials and park-goers mockingly refer to as “Lumpini Park residents”.

The park is well-known to those who love outdoor exercise and enjoy brisk walks and fresh air.

It is located on prime space, the central business area, and is surrounded by a major hospital, universities, schools, shopping complexes and swanky condominiums.

Lumpini Park’s “residents” have become a headache for the Social Development and Welfare Department (SDWD), under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

The government has recently issued an order to clear the homeless from the park.

Napha Setthakon, head of the SDWD, told the Bangkok Post that the department is preparing to relocate the homeless people to a “real home”in a state-run temporary shelter.

“I don’t have enough money to rent a room. It’s all spent on food and travel expenses,”

Opponents, including university scholars, are demanding a better solution than just a change of sleeping venue.

Piak wants the government to review the plan.

“If birds and hia [water monitors] are allowed to live in the park, I should have the same right as a Thai citizen with an ID card,” Mr Piak said.

Mr Piak left his home upcountry and moved to work in Bangkok when he was 14, and claims he spends four or five days a week sleeping at the park because he wants to save money.

He is currently earning some money – 300 baht a day – selling clothes in the Sukhumvit area.

He does not want to rent and send all of his earnings back to his family upcountry. “I have to save some (money) to help support my family,” Piak said.

All of his savings go to his two daughters and their children who are studying.

Other so-called “Lumpini Park residents” also have their own reasons for being there.

Chai, an ex-worker in Bangkok who has moved to Chiang Rai, said he still needs to visit and stay in the city for days at a time because he is a patient at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, which is just opposite Lumpini Park.

His illness requires frequent appointments with his doctors. Because his medical welfare under the Social Security Fund has not yet been transferred to the hospital of his choice in Chiang Rai, he is taking shelter at the park during treatment.

“I don’t have enough money to rent a room. It’s all spent on food and travel expenses,” Chai said.

A 60-year-old woman who asked not to be named said she regularly comes to the park to take a nap during the day time. She goes along with her family, bringing a nephew to meet a doctor at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.

“So I do not mean to stay overnight at the park but only wanted to relax and take a nap while waiting for them to finish. But after a short sleep, I was suddenly woken up by officials who said the law prohibits sleeping in the park,” she said.

“I bet if foreigners or some wealthy-looking park-goers rolled out mats and fell asleep, nobody would wake them up,” she said.

Academic experts said the government’s handling of homeless people is prejudiced.

Bunloet Wisetpricha, a researcher with Thammasat University’s Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, said officials should be trained to deal with people using public space because some of their antics such as waking people napping on benches or asking people with destitute looks to move on displays bias.

“Low-income earners should enjoy the same right to relax and even lie on the lawn for a short sleep after working hard during the day,” he said, warning that officials should “not worsen their problems and close off their opportunities.”

The SDWD insisted it wants to help those 40 homeless people and 55 others who are using Lumpini Park for eating, bathing and taking naps.

“If birds and hia [water monitors] are allowed to live in the park, I should have the same right as a Thai citizen with an ID card,”

This group at Lumpini Park is among 897 people defined as “Wanderers of Bangkok”, according to a department survey this month.

Its latest effort to bring them to the state shelter came after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited the park early this month.

Park-goers gave him an earful of complaints during his visit about homeless people.

“Some view these (homeless) people as a disturbance while other visitors are worried about their safety,” Napha said.

“Over 50% of homeless people suffer from mental illness,”added Naphna. “These people would be sent to a state shelter in the Huay Kwang area of Bangkok”.

“The department will not only give them a place to live, but it also helps them reunite with their families and give medical treatment to those in need,” she said.

Mr Bunloet, known as an expert on the homeless issue, said the measures to return these homeless to their families or provide them shelter and welfare are acceptable.

“The social ministry needs to join forces with civic groups, especially City Hall and district officials and social workers to ensure long-term results,” he said.

Among the challenges is resistance from the targeted group.

“Homeless people usually oppose relocation to places far from areas they are familiar with,” he said.

The government needs to find the “right place” for shelters and make sure they are well-run and habitable.

Mr Bunloet said the first thing the government can do is to change the language it deploys. He warned officials not to use words such as “regulate”.

“It sounds like these people are linked with something untidy… something we need to get rid of, rather than help,” he said.

This story by Penchan Charoensuthipan was first published by The Bangkok Post on October 28, 2018.


In late 2017, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security issued an order to clear a number of homeless from Lumpini Park who slept at the park and took baths at the park’s toilets. The ministry pledged to relocate them to a new home at a state-run temporary shelter. After the ministry’s order was announced, The Bangkok Post decided to investigate further on the situation of the homeless of Lumpini Park and allow readers to understand their plight in the capital. The paper aimed to examine the ministry’s actions to tackle the problems as well as give a voice to the voiceless. After the story was published, the ministry’s attempts to relocate the homeless to the shelter was monitored closely and a survey of the homeless who remained in the park was taken. Whilst some had decided to stay at the temporary shelters, a majority opted to stay and spend their life at the park despite having to escape the authorities.

Malaysia polluted by imported waste

Just imagine this: plastic milk bottles infested with maggots find their way to Malaysian shores after their contents are consumed by Australians. Also being dumped on our soil are plastic bread wrappers that originate from Canada, Japan and France.

That’s not all. Industrial electric cables disguised as copper from the United Kingdom and stacks of damaged electric and electronic cables are covertly heaped onto Malaysia.

Plastic cups used for drinking zam zam water in Mecca , Saudi Arabia, also end up in this country.
Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste are dispatched to Malaysia every year, part of which is stuck in hundreds of containers that have remained unclaimed in several ports in Malaysia.

Malaysia will send back hundreds of containers containing garbages to its countries of origin in the near future.

Recently, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department in Penang detected 265 containers of plastic waste that have not been claimed since January this year. At Westports in Port Klang, 152 containers believed to be filled with contaminated plastic waste have also been lying unclaimed.

Sources told Bernama that the relevant parties were reluctant to claim the containers for fear that the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) would take stern action against them in its effort to restrain other countries from treating Malaysia as a dumping ground for their waste.

There have been instances when a container carrying waste is registered as coming from China but in reality, its contents are from France.

Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam are known to serve as the world’s ‘garbage bins’ as they receive waste from several developed countries like the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, Belgium and Canada.

The situation worsened after China imposed restrictions on the import of recyclable paper and plastic in January 2018. This resulted in more waste being diverted to Malaysia. Some 750,000 tonnes of plastic waste worth more than RM483 million (US$115.5 million) entered this country in 2018, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. China’s import of waste dropped from more than 600,000 tonnes a month in 2016 to 30,000 tonnes a month since January 2018.

Thailand has also taken action to stop the import of plastic waste while Vietnam has introduced tight control pertaining to this matter as it does not want the country to be used as a garbage bin by developed nations.
Recently, Malaysia was among the 187 countries that were signatories to the amendments to the Basel Convention to make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated. The amendments will be enforced on Jan 1, 2021.


Why does Malaysia have to take on the burden of disposing of all that foreign garbage, most of which are shipped from developed countries?

Apparently, both the exporters and importers involved label their consignments as “waste for recycling”. The reality, however, is very different as the bulk of the imported waste materials is not fit for recycling.
According to sources, not all the waste materials that enter this country come in hygienic conditions; on the contrary, they reek of rotting garbage and are infested with worms.

Containers in Port Klang, Malaysia, are filled with plastic waste from around the world.

One source said it was obvious that the recycling companies importing the waste were willing to turn a blind eye to the environmental pollution they were causing as a result of separating, cleaning, burning and disposing of the plastic waste that cannot be recycled.

“The ‘reward’ they get is only 60 sen for each kilogram of waste that is supposedly processed,” said the source.
The source added that even if the waste is recyclable, it has to be separated and cleaned thoroughly, which would require plenty of resources such as clean water.

“Waste that cannot be recycled will end up being burnt in the open. This can lead to carcinogenic toxic fumes being released into the environment, like what happened in Jenjarom (Selangor) recently.”

Malaysia’s soil and waterways also face threats from pollution during the cleaning process when water from the waste seeps into the ground. “In some cases, the waste is dumped on abandoned land or in the forest and left there,” said the source.


The situation worsens when recycling companies without their own waste processing premises hand over this task to factories that operate illegally all over the country, especially in areas located close to the ports.

“Selangor is among the states that have many illegal factories. Despite taking action such as closing down their premises and taking them in court, the owners (of the illegal factories) easily find new places to operate from,” said the source.

In its effort to curb environmental pollution, Mestecc has ordered 148 illegal plastic recycling plants to cease operations between January and April this year. These factories include 33 located in Jenjarom that had contravened the Environmental Quality Act 1974.

Malaysia’s Customs officers taking samples of plastic waste from one of the containers in Port Klang, Malaysia.

Since May , the ministry has inspected 123 containers carrying solid waste from the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, China, Spain, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Norway and France. These containers gained entry into Malaysia via approved permits (AP) issued by the National Solid Waste Management Department.

Sixty of these containers, filled with 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste, will be shipped back to the country of origin after thorough inspections by the authorities.

Mestecc Minister Yeo Bee Yin said 10 out of the 60 containers would be dispatched to the country of origin within 14 days. The ministry had previously ordered five containers of waste to be shipped back to Spain where they originated, she said, adding that the action was taken under Malaysian laws, including the Environmental Quality Act.


One of the pressing challenges faced by the ministry in ‘repatriating’ the imported waste is detecting the country of origin.

There have been instances when a container carrying waste is registered as coming from China but in reality, its contents are from France.

According to sources, certain unscrupulous middlemen alter the Bill of Lading (BL) to confuse the authorities and make it difficult for them to ascertain the container’s country of origin. In the shipping industry, making alterations to the BL, such as the name of the exporter and country of origin, was a normal practice to ‘smoothen business transactions’. As the link between the exporter and importer of the waste, it is the middleman helps to tweak the information as desired by his clients so that the consignment lands in the importer’s country.

Many plastic waste exporters also evade the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) by exporting using the 3920 code for solid waste such as plastic plates, sheets, films and foil strips. HS is a global system of classifying products that are traded internationally. To hasten the export process, these exporters avoid using the 3915 code for plastic waste, which also covers pens and scraps, because they would then require an AP.

Based on the industry’s practices, it is clear that many people are willing to commit fraud to gain from the global plastic waste trade, which has an estimated annual market value of US$5 billion.

To prevent the further pollution of our country, both this industry and foreign countries need to clean up their act.

This story by Nur-ul Afida Kamaludin & Ali Imran Mohd Nordin was first published by Bernama on June 7.

Curious about why Malaysia was labelled as one of the world’s worst countries for plastic pollution, reporters Nur-ul Afida Kamaludin and Ali Imran Mohd Nordin went behind-the-scenes to uncover the true cause. Published on June 7, their story exposes the irresponsible actions of some foreign countries in making Malaysia their dumping ground. Most importantly, it reveals a systemic problem underlying global plastic waste trade, which has an estimated annual market value of US$5 billion. For Nur-ul Afida Kamaludin, journalism acts as a tool in providing citizens with information that would benefit them as a community and society as well as being a watchdog of the government. By informing society, she hopes to raise awareness among the people about the dangers of waste, if left unaddressed.

No paid time off for 8 years

Is Taiwan ready for bilingual education? In light of the government’s new policy goal, many foreigners living in Taiwan have expressed concerns regarding the protection of their labour rights.

The government aims to turn Taiwan into a bilingual nation over the next ten years by attracting foreign teachers from across the Asia Pacific region.

Many cram schools, however, use “deceiving contracts” to deny foreigners rights for paid time off on weekends and national holidays. They also deny them any annual leave by forcing to sign for part-time jobs. This is the fallacy of Taiwan’s much-touted bilingual education and the “international perspective” local educators work so hard to foster.Dave Patrick, a Canadian English teacher based in Taipei, told The China Post how he is taking his former employer to court for allegedly denying any paid time off for the past eight years.

The teacher claims that Eagle American Institute used “deceiving contracts” to deny his rights for paid time off on a national holiday and annual leave, according to legal documents provided to The China Post.

The contracts would mislead many foreigners to the responsibilities of a “full-time” contract in which the school’s duties would be limited to those of a “part-time” agreement, Patrick said.

The Canadian English teacher told The China Post how he is taking his former employer to court for allegedly denying any paid time off for the past 8 years. Source: Courtesy of Dave Patrick

According to the Ministry of Labor, Taiwan workers are entitled to seven days of annual leave after one year of work and 10 days after three years of employment.

Patrick reportedly asked the school for the overdue payments of the national holidays and annual leaves, but his actions were met with failure, frustration and “negative remarks,” bringing the purportedly friendly working environment of Taiwan into question .

After consulting Taiwan Legal Aid Foundation and the Department of Labor at Taipei City Hall, Patrick accused the school of hiring “part-time” teachers to do “full-time jobs” with the aim of “denying their rights for fair paid time off.”

Like most foreign nationals confronted with legal woes, however, Patrick said he found himself struggling in the process for too long while the school not only hurled abuse at the “non-salaried employee” but also denied his payments.

According to Patrick, his employer has repeatedly failed to “notify part-time workers of their rights” and even “turned a blind eye even after the Department of Labor issued administrative fines to the school.” Such reckless actions are behind his decision to take his former employer to court, he said.

Source: Courtesy of Dave Patrick

Patrick added that foreign teachers should be better aware of their labor rights. “Many fellow coworkers are in the same situation,” he said, adding that this could be a widespread issue in Taiwan.

This recent case is indeed far from an isolated one; it casts a spotlight on the inconsistencies between government policies, foreign culture, and public expectations.

According to various reports, Taiwan is at a critical time to shape the future of its human capital through education.

Many believe, however, that fostering bilingual education requires more than a top-down approach.

Authorities should put more emphasis on changing attitudes towards English learning in order to build a friendly working environment for foreign teachers.

This story by Jay Cho and Dimitri Bruyas was originally published on The China Post on April 13, 2019.

Written in both English and Chinese, journalists Jay Cho and Dimitri Bruyas teamed up to inform Taiwan and its foreign residents about the alleged labour and tax abuses in English schools. The teacher, Dave Patrick, contacted Dimitri directly on Facebook through a special section in The China Post related to the foreign community in Taiwan. Since the publication of this story, Dave has won his case against the school, which paid him an undisclosed amount to quickly settle the issue. Many messages left on The China Post’s Facebook page show that his experience is not unusual. His successful claim has helped set a precedent for other teachers experiencing the same exploitative situation of being hired on part-time contract despite performing full-time work. In a bid to prevent further cases, Patrick has filed complaints at Taipei’s Labour Department and National Tax Office to ensure that the authorities will continue their inquiry into alleged labour and taxes abuses at other branches of the English cram school despite his financial settlement. The inquiry is ongoing.

September 23, don’t fear

Sometimes we cannot blame people when they react to social media posts on instability and unrest.

A post that was circulated online and generated by a Fijian who lives in Australia, caused quite a frenzy amongst Fijians.

The instigator plucked the date, September 23, from thin air and sent out a message declaring that there would be unrest on that day.

Thankfully, on 18 September, The Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander (LFC) Colonel Manoa Gadai quashed the overseas-generated rumour that unrest would occur.

“Everything will be normal and people will enjoy whatever they will do on that day because their security and safety are in good hands,” he said.

Colonel Gadai made this comment after it was reported that some people were stocking up their supplies in case unrest would occur.

For Fjians who have seen what happened in 1987 and 2000, we should be grateful that our security is today in good hands .

Colonel Gadai said he was working closely with the Fiji Police Force to see that Fijians were safe and living happily in their own environment.

He warned those behind the rumour not to spread lies.

“Just don’t believe in these liars. The truth is – Fiji is safe,” he said.

However, many Fijians have not forgotten the political turmoil that divided the nation in the past.

They fear returning to a past era that was rife with pain and suffering that numerous innocent citizens endured.

The Fijian economy was one of the big casualties affected by previous tumult.

It has taken a long time for the country to recover and rise up to where it is today.

Unfortunately, there are rabble-rousers in our communities who want to disrupt that progress for their own selfish political agendas.

They have cheerleaders who live comfortably in their homes abroad and spread lies via social media to create instability.

They did not even stop to think about their families who still live in Fiji and who could suffer like everyone else should there be a disturbance.

It is comforting to hear from Colonel Gadai that the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) and the Police are ready to fulfil their role to protect the country and Fijians should there be an emergency.

The Land Force Commander is widely respected in the force and speaks with authority.

He also represents the face of the RFMF leadership today – a leadership that is committed to supporting the provisions of the 2013 Constitution.

From left: Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander Colonel Manoa Gadai, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Naliva and new 3FIR Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Aseri Rokoura in an earlier event this year. Source: Ronald Kumar

Both the RFMF and the Police take any threat to peace and stability very seriously.

The RFMF has been mandated by the Constitution to protect Fiji and all Fijians.

Last month when Colonel Gadai was chief guest at the Ratu Sukuna Memorial School (RSMS) passing-out parade at Albert Park in Suva, the very same rumour

He assured parents and guardians of RSMS students that the nation was secure and safe.

“Now that it has again resurfaced (this is) my advice – don’t believe in this rumour. It is a lie and spread by irresponsible people.”

He urged all Fijians to continue with their daily engagements on September 23.

All units of the RFMF, he said, were aware and ready to fulfil their constitutional role spelt out under the 2013 Constitution.

The Constitution states that the RFMF will at all times ensure the security, defence and well being of Fiji and all Fijians.

So if anyone is even remotely thinking of interfering with Fiji’s peace and stability they have been harshly warned – they will face the full brunt of the law.

For Fjians who have seen what happened in 1987 and 2000, we should be grateful that our security is today in good hands .

As Colonel Gadai has said, we currently have nothing to fear.

This story is a compilation of articles by Fiji Sun published on 18 Sept 2019.


In this era of fake news, Fiji – like other countries around the world – has been bombarded by a constant stream of fake news. Given Fiji’s history of political crisis – two military coups and a civilian takeover – the public is naturally highly sensitive to any news of possible instability. In this instance, messages were being forwarded on Facebook Messenger encouraging Fijians to stay away from school and work on Monday September 23, 2019. Facebook is the most popular App used in Fiji. It was noted that the person behind this fake message lives overseas. Like most fake news that has been circulated among Fijians, most are initiated by those living outside of the country itself. In this particular case, some had taken such news to heart and started to stock up on goods. Therefore, it was crucial for the media to debunk any fake news or misinformation being circulated on social media or other online platforms. The Fijian army, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), continues to play a vital role in nation building and in bringing stability and assurance to the people of Fiji. It normally does not enter into discussions on such issues, but as Fiji Sun journalists are trusted and credible, the Land Force Commander agreed to comment on such the situation that caused public concern and alarm.

Three S’porean sisters married to three Indian brothers

Mrs Jaya Lakshmi Kanniyappan, a Singaporean mother of five children (four daughters and a son), had nurtured the hope that her three eldest children – all girls – would get married to boys from one family, like her mother and two aunts had done in the ’60s.

Little did she know that it would become reality.

“For many years I did prayers and made vows to see my daughters marry into the same family. If they married separately, I was afraid that they might get separated over time,” she said. “I also felt that too many problems could arise if they got married into separate families.”

Now, Mrs Jaya Lakshmi, 50 and her husband Suppiah Manikam, 57, are happy parents. Their eldest daughters – Raynuga, 30, Jayanthi, 27, and Gowri, 25 – have married three brothers – Arun, 31, Balaji, 30, and Hariharasudan, 29, respectively – who hail from the Ramalingam family with origins in Sirkazhi, a town in Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu, India.

“Now my eldest three daughters have the same in-laws. They are very nice and supportive. I am sure that no matter what issues arise, they will be able to tackle it together as one family. My daughters are in safe hands,” said a beaming Mrs Jaya Lakshmi.

The wedding ceremonies involving the three couples took place almost at the same time on Nov 24 last year at the Singapore Khalsa Association.

The couples recently celebrated their first Pongal (an Indian harvest festival celebrated by Tamils) together.

The first Pongal celebrated after marriage is called “Thalai Pongal” and is considered auspicious as it symbolises the joy they will receive for the rest of their lives.

All three couples live together in a four-room rental flat in Compassvale, a neighbourhood in Sengkang New Town. The three couples share the cost of the rental flat equally.

The sisters are Singaporeans and hold decent-paying jobs in private companies. Only Arun, among the brothers, is working here as a landscaper. The other brothers, who have long-term visit passes, are seeking jobs .


Destiny played a role in all three couples coming together.

It all started in June 2015 when the Suppiah family decided to go on a 10-day sightseeing trip to Tamil Nadu.

Their tour guide was Arun, who was based in Chennai along with his other family members and had eight years’ experience taking people around cities and towns in the state .

“I used to work at Changi airport and my colleagues recommended Arun to me,” said Raynuga. “It was important to have a reputed guide who could be trusted as we were travelling overseas for the first time.

“Arun treated us like his own family. Once we returned to the hotel late because of an accident on the way and we couldn’t find dinner. The eateries and shops in India close early. Arun found food and brought it to us. It may have seemed like a small gesture, but I was very touched by it.”

Raynuga was 28 then and her parents were keen to see her get married.

The family decided to pray at the Sri Kalyanasundareswarar Temple in Thiruvelvikudi, Nagapattinam district, which is famous as a place where singles seek divine intervention to find suitable spouses. The Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Raynuga received a hint of who her future husband would be after she circled the deity nine times.

“ I ended up seeing his (Arun’s) face,” she said. “I already knew that destiny had something in store for us. I began developing feelings for him, but I didn’t explicitly express them.”

After the family returned to Singapore, she continued to be in touch with Arun through video calls and messages. Soon, they openly expressed their love for each other.

“I missed Raynuga and her family. It was like being separated from a very important relationship when they left,” said Arun.

In October 2015, Arun and his family came to Singapore to discuss and confirm the marriage. The couple held their solemnisation ceremony on Aug 19, 2016.

During the ceremony, Arun’s younger brothers – Balaji and Hariharasudan – met Raynuga’s sisters Jayanthi and Gowri. They became friendly and soon deeper relationships developed.

“After the ceremony, when Balaji’s family were heading back to India, I had no heart to see them leave,” said Jayanthi.

Added Gowri: “During our trip to the airport, I was driving the car and Hariharasudan was in it. He played the song “Mane Mane” from the movie Uriyadi on his phone . He wanted to dedicate the song to me indirectly. My family and I eventually found out that he was trying his best to confess his love to me.”

A month later, Hariharasudan and Balaji returned to Singapore. They stayed for a month and professed their love for Gowri and Jayanthi respectively.

“I am a soft-spoken person and speak only when necessary. I found that Balaji had a similar character and was attracted to him,” said Jayanthi.

The couples kept in touch via messages and video calls even after the brothers left for India.

Subsequently, both families decided to hold all three weddings on the same day at the same time.


“Many friends and relatives told me that it was not advisable for all the couples to get married at the same time. But we spoke to different Hindu priests and they all said there was nothing wrong with it. So we decided to do what we thought was right,” said Mrs Jaya Lakshmi.

According to Raynuga, most people refrain from marrying at the same event along with their siblings because they will have to share the spotlight with another couple and costs for such ceremonies and celebrations could get high.

“But we knew that with the support of our strong families, we can overcome them,” she said.

Raynuga and her husband Arun. Source: Khalid Baba

The weddings took place nearly two years after she met Arun. It gave the family enough time to properly plan and prepare the finances.

Another concern was where the couple were going to stay – Singapore or India – after the weddings. Both families agreed that the brothers will move over to Singapore after they got married.

“I don’t think I can live apart from my daughters. I was very happy when their husbands agreed to stay in Singapore,” said Mrs Jaya Lakshmi.

For the couples, living together provides communal joy. But they face challenges as well.

“We split the costs among the the three couples. These include the rental and household bills,” said Raynuga.

They take turns to cook, either as couples, sisters or brothers. They also try their best to eat together to maintain the family unity.

However, a big challenge is the use of the toilet. The rental flat has two toilets, one in the master bedroom and the other in the kitchen.

Arun and Raynuga use the master bedroom toilet. The rest have to share the common toilet.

“We have to adjust our timings to use the toilet in the morning or when everyone needs to go somewhere at the same time. It can get frustrating, especially when we are in a rush. A lot of compromises are required,” said Raynuga.

They also sometimes travel together in Arun’s lorry, which can seat only three people at the front.

“Having our own transport doesn’t always make it convenient. In the morning when everyone needs to go to different places, it takes longer. Also because Arun has tons of items like blowers and pipes in his lorry, it can be inconvenient at times,” said Raynuga.

Balaji also pointed out that there will be challenges in finding a job here. But he is confident that he can overcome them. “With the strong support of my wife and her family, I am certain I can find a way around it,” he said.

Added Hariharasudan: “My wife is my support and backbone and I intend to live in Singapore for the long term. In the future, I hope to buy a big house, and live happily and peacefully.”

This story by Vengadeshwaran Subramaniam was originally published by Tamil Murasu on Jan 20, 2019.

As surprising as it sounds, this is not the first marriage of its kind in the girls’ family. Mrs Jaya Lakshmi’s mother, Mrs Kasiyammal Manikam, and two of her sisters also married three brothers. Mrs Kasiyammal had seven siblings and her family used to live in a house opposite a rehabilitation centre where Mr Kanniyappan Kaliyappan worked. They met and fell in love and decided to get married. But they faced resistance from their families who would approve only arranged marriages. The families soon realised that the pair were adamant on getting married and finally relented. Mrs Kasiyammal and Mr Kanniyappan got married in 1965. They are no longer alive. Subsequently, Mrs Kasiyammal’s two sisters also got married to two brothers of Mr Kanniyappan– one was a love marriage while the other was match-made. “Now it feels like deja vu,” said Mrs Jaya Lakshmi.

Exposing an international human trafficking network

They are sold a dream – of a ticket to study and work in a foreign country, but after spending their family’s entire savings, they are caught in the harsh reality of being trafficked and trapped in a constant cycle of exploitation and extortion.

Thousands of young Bangladeshis have been trafficked to Malaysia through obscure private colleges and their unscrupulous “agents”.

Some pay over RM 20,000 (US$4,781), equivalent to three years’ wages in Bangladesh, for the agents to secure student visas and admission into these bogus colleges.

But that’s just the beginning of the exploitation.

When they arrive in Malaysia, the victims realise the colleges don’t offer any real classes, they can’t work under student visas, and there are often additional “fees” to be paid.

Many have no choice but to work illegally under inhumane conditions, creating a cycle of exploitation where they have to earn enough to repay their debts and buy a ticket home, or pay the agents again to renew their student visas so they can work another year.

“I can’t go home, because my family spent all their money on the agent fees.

“Now I need to work here to pay for my father’s medicine,” said one victim, 24, whose father has suffered two strokes.

An undercover journalist from R.AGE (right) meeting with suspected ‘student traffickers’ in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Source: R.AGE

The team met up with agents while posing as factory managers looking for cheap labour, infiltrated the colleges, and followed the trail all the way to Dhaka, Bangladesh. One agent told our journalist he works for a “Datuk” who owns a college in Kuala Lumpur, and that he has trafficked over 8,000 Bangladeshi students to Malaysia.

“Bangladeshi students are easy and quick money,” said the agent, who is Nepali.

“Bring in 200 or 300 of them, then distribute them (among the colleges), then you’ll make your money.”

Many of these victims live and work not far from the glittering lights of the Klang Valley’s major towns, hidden and suffering.

“Our living conditions here are worse than the garbage dumps in the slums of Dhaka,” said one victim, now a construction worker living in a makeshift ghetto in Cyberjaya.

His family had to take a loan to pay for his “studies” in Malaysia, for which they pay 21,000 taka (US$248) a month in instalments.

He now earns around RM1,500 a month.

“In my college, there were around 200-250 Bangladeshi students, but only 30-35 have renewed their visas (to continue studying).

“Where the rest are, we don’t know,” he added.

During the course of its investigation, R.AGE met over 30 student trafficking victims, and found almost 30 colleges that showed signs of having worked with student traffickers.

When a R.AGE journalist posing as a prospective student went to one of these colleges, an employee quietly warned him against signing up.

“If our own people (Malaysians) come, I’ll tell them not to study here,” she said.

“Look around, the whole place is empty! I wouldn’t want any Malaysian students stuck here.”

“Our living conditions here are worse than the garbage dumps in the slums of Dhaka,” said one victim, now a construction worker living in a makeshift ghetto in Cyberjaya.

An earlier report by The Star revealed a large number of foreign students arriving through dubious colleges in 2013. The Ministry of Higher Education revoked the international student licence of four such institutions in 2015.

Since then, a further 26 institutions have had their licences revoked or not renewed.

Though many of these colleges can no longer enrol international students, they continue to operate by channelling students to other affiliated colleges.

“We do have something like a collaboration, a group of companies,” said the Nepali agent.

“We have a language centre and four colleges, all are like ‘joint-venture’ companies.”

He also claimed that he enrolled 3,000 Bangladeshi students at one of these colleges, but R.AGE found its campus to be nearly deserted.

“I came here to study. Only to study. But now, my dream is dashed,” said one victim.

First published on Aug 14, 2017, the series of reports on the exploitation of Bangladeshi college applicants, which includes a Peabody Award-nominated documentary series Student/Trafficked, led to a crackdown on the practice by the Malaysian government.

It’s about time someone spoke up about student trafficking, the Bangladeshi community said.

“All of us appreciate that R.AGE took this step to show what many Bangladeshi students go through,” said Bangladeshi Student Union Malaysia president Mohammad Ziaur Rahman Zia about the documentary series.

Mohd Hafizuddin, a bartender, said he wished the series had been launched before he came here. He paid RM15,000 to an agent to enrol for a diploma in Multimedia Applications, and only later realised the college was a sham.

“If I knew it would be like this, I wouldn’t have come,” he said.

Over two dozen colleges/institutions had their international recruitment licenses revoked, and the number of student trafficking victims from Bangladesh has since drastically reduced after R.AGE’s coverage.

“The Malaysian government has not been issuing visas to colleges for the past year,” said Abdur Rahim Khan, CEO of Bangladesh Malaysia Study Centre (BMSC). BMSC is one of the more established student recruitment agencies in Bangladesh, and specialises in sending students to Malaysian higher education institutions.

“This is good, because college students don’t go to Malaysia to study – only university students do,” he claimed.

Colleges and universities were also encouraged by the Higher Education Ministry to apply anti-trafficking guidelines proposed by R.AGE, of which five colleges and universities pledged to implement in December 2017.

However, despite the then-Home Minister himself pledging to bring those involved to justice, no syndicate leaders were arrested in connection with the investigations.

This story by Elroi Yee and Shanjeev Reddy is a compilation of articles from Aug 14, 2017 to March 12, 2018 that was originally published by The Star.

In late 2016, reporters from The Star’s young investigative team, R.AGE, uncovered a new form of human trafficking in Malaysia’s private colleges. An international network of “education agents”, college owners, and allegedly corrupt government officers had been working together to exploit young victims – mainly from Bangladesh – by promising them a quality Malaysian tertiary education, before exploiting them for cheap labour through debt bondage. The team, made up of 14 journalists and documentary filmmakers, spent over a year undercover, systematically unravelling the syndicates’ operations by posing as factory managers looking for cheap migrant labour, and recording their conversations using hidden video cameras. First published on Aug 14, 2017, their series, Student/Trafficked, helped the Malaysian government clamp down on trafficking syndicates while providing evidence and measures to all stakeholders to implement anti-trafficking procedures. The team continues to advocate for the tens of thousands of victims that are said to remain in Malaysia, now mostly undocumented and driven to the fringes of society. “As far as we know, none of those at the top of these trafficking syndicates have been brought to justice. “But just as important, we urge the new Government, especially the Home and Education ministries, to consider measures to help the victims either restart their studies or return home with dignity,” said R.AGE deputy executive producer Elroi Yee, who led the Student/Trafficked investigations.

Ghost patients, scammers haunt Philippine health system

As a member of Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), patient Maria (not her real name) was getting free dialysis treatment at a city centre in Quezon, Philippines.

The state insurer’s health insurance coverage entitles each PhilHealth member to 90 free dialysis sessions a year.

But even though Maria died in March 2016, PhilHealth continued to pay for the rest of the dialysis treatments at P2,600 (US$49.60) each.

Dead patients undergoing kidney dialysis, ghost patients getting cancer treatments and fake members are just some of the fraudulent schemes that led to at least P154 billion losses in PhilHealth.

The state-owned corporation manages health insurance of public and private employees and their dependents, as well as indigents or poor beneficiaries.

In June, The Inquirer uncovered massive corruption in the health insurance agency, bleeding billions of pesos from health premiums paid by its 105 million members and beneficiaries.

Former employee of WellMed Dialysis Laboratory Center Corp, Edwin Roberto disclosed how he filed PhilHealth claims using the names of dead patients for non-existent dialysis sessions since March 2016 upon the instruction of one of his employers.

Owners of the clinic prepared the claims and told the centre’s employees to copy the patients’ signatures from their medical records so that these claims could be submitted to PhilHealth, he said. Edwin told reporters that he and fellow ex-employee Liezel Santos went directly to the PhilHealth office in January to follow up on the status of their complaints about WellMed, but the visit was futile.

Philhealth controversy whistle blower Edwin Roberto said in a press conference called by lawyer Harry Roque that he and another former WellMed employee sought assistance and protection from PhilHealth but were rebuffed. Source: INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Apart from turning a blind eye to payments for kidney dialysis treatments of dead patients, the list of fraudulent acts that corrupt PhilHealth officials and personnel knew about include cancer treatments for fictitious members, fake payment receipts of overseas workers as well as hospitals overcharging by declaring ailments like cough and common colds as pneumonia.

Overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Marveleca Bautista-Jauod is just another victim embroiled in the schemes of conniving PhilHealth employees and fraudsters. Hours before her flight to Kuwait on Aug 12, 2015, the OFW discovered that the PhilHealth benefit package which was supposed to cover the hospitalisation cost of her 8-year-old son, who had been stricken by dengue, was invalid.

But because her PhilHealth member data record did not reflect any payment made by her hiring agency, her family had to shell out around P12,000 for the hospital fees. Her mother eventually found out that the PhilHealth official receipt(POR) Marveleca received was fake.

“Eli”, a PhilHealth employee who monitored cases of fake PORs until September 2018, had recognised the same scheme in at least 48 hiring agencies handling land-based workers.

However, since the scam was first spotted in 2015, the lack of political will and general “inaction” of top PhilHealth officials hindered its speedy resolution, Eli said. The case files have been passed on to five PhilHealth presidents, illustrating the bureaucratic red tape plaguing PhilHealth’s inquiries into irregularities, he added. Eli cited the case of Dennis Mas, then the regional vice president of PhilHealth’s National Capital Region (NCR) office. Mas was supposedly concerned that picking up the issue of the fake PORs—which by that time was already being reported in six provinces as well—could affect his chances of promotion.

There is a culture of fear. You can’t blame them. Once in a while, there would be motherhood statements denouncing the fraud, but nothing happens. Those who really try to fix it, they get removed, end up being called troublemakers. I really feel sorry for them.

This widespread corruption in the public health system is an injustice especially since most Filipinos can barely afford hospitalisation and medicine. A 2016 study by the state University of the Philippines found that six out of 10 Filipinos die without ever seeing doctors. The country’s doctor-patient ratio is 1:33,000, a far cry from other countries which have an ideal ratio of 1:1,000.

In 2018, the newly-passed Universal Health Care Law which mandates universal health coverage of all 110 million Filipinos set aside a budget of P171 billion.

However, these efforts are nought if PhilHealth does not undergo a major overhaul. Documents obtained by the Inquirer showed that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was made aware of the loss caused by PhilHealth’s overpayments and other fraudulent schemes in November 2017, a month after he took office.

Minguita Padilla, former head executive staff of former Health Secretary, Janette Garin said:“There is a culture of fear. You can’t blame them. Once in a while, there would be motherhood statements denouncing the fraud, but nothing happens. Those who really try to fix it, they get removed, end up being called troublemakers. I really feel sorry for them.”

After the Inquirer’s series of reports, President Rodrigo Duterte asked for the resignation of a dozen top PhilHealth officials and ordered the arrest of the Wellmed Dialysis Center owner and the others involved in the scam on June 7. He replaced the PhilHealth president with a retired military general to undertake sweeping reforms in the agency.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, the President singled out the Inquirer’s PhilHealth expose as an example of corruption he wanted to weed out.

The Philippines president said: “The recent uncovering of the massive fraud perpetrated against the public health insurance system proves that corruption is pervasive. Huge amounts of medical funds were released to cover padded medical claims and imaginary treatment of ghost patients. I am grossly disappointed.”

On August 14, the Senate blue ribbon committee opened an investigation on the Philhealth scam after several senators filed resolutions calling for an inquiry.

Two months since the Inquirer began the series, the story is still unfolding with more revelations of corruption in PhilHealth.

This story is a compilation of a series of articles by Leila Salaverria, Jovic Yee, Mariejo Ramos, Marlon Ramos and Melvin Gascon originally published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer from June 6 to June 21.

The Inquirer investigative team first scratched the surface of the massive corruption in PhilHealth upon receiving documents and interviewing two whistleblowers. The former employees of Wellmed Dialysis Center exposed their employer’s scheme of charging kidney dialysis for dead patients. Five reporters from the team spent weeks pouring through voluminous documents, interviewing insiders and taking out-of-town trips to find victims of the scam. The team took more than a month to launch the series of investigative reports. After the first series came out on Jun 6, 2019, more documents and whistleblowers came forward about PhilHealth’s systemic misconduct. The Inquirer ran a total of 24 stories on the issue. The unravelling corruption included an exclusive report on the Secretary of Health’s conflict-of-interest, as his family corporation was found leasing a building for PhilHealth and supplying medicine for the Department of Health.

Defying the odds to walk and help others find their feet

It was a hot January afternoon in 2013. The sun was beating down on Desmond Lim as he sat astride his Kawasaki Versys 1000, waiting for the traffic light to turn green on a country road near Kanchanaburi.

The former flight attendant was heading back to Bangkok after a month-long motorbike sojourn which had taken him from Singapore to Thailand.

A sudden impact from behind threw him to the ground. It was a truck driven by a man too engrossed with his phone to notice Desmond. The 43-year-old recalls: “I saw tyres, they went over me. I saw tyres again, turned on my side and got run over again.”

He lay groaning on the hot tarmac for more than six hours before an ambulance arrived.

For over a year, the hospital was his home because his injuries – fractured pelvis, broken right leg and organs which had shifted – were horrific. Doctors told him he would never walk again, which threw him into a deep malaise.

But Desmond eventually walked again, thanks to his grit and the love and support of his family and several medical workers.

Today, he walks with the help of a brace because his right leg – the lower part is paralysed – is now shorter than the left. “There is pain when I sit or stand but I have learnt how to manage it,” he says.

With his employability limited, he got a loan from his sister and used his savings to start The Prosthetic Company three years ago. The social enterprise specialises in prosthetics and orthotic equipment and services. The outfit has since grown to become one of the largest of its kind here and has expanded into Malaysia.

Knowing what his clients need has helped the business, he says.

“I’ve been through it and I know what it is like. I understand how they feel, I listen and try my best to give them what they want.”

Because of his family circumstances, Desmond became independent and started earning his own keep at a young age. By the time he was 15, he was working full time as a banquet staff in a hotel along Dunearn Road, pulling more than $1,500 a month including overtime.

“I’d go to school in the morning and work from 3pm until 11pm every day,” he says, adding that the hotel provided him with a room.

Before the accident, Desmond – a purser at Cathay Pacific Airways by then – enjoyed flying because it was relatively stress-free and gave the motorbiking enthusiast opportunities to take long rides to Malaysia and the region.

The day his life changed is seared in his memory.

The accident attracted a crowd and caused a big traffic jam, one reason why the ambulance took six hours to reach the scene.

“It was a hot day. I was burnt because the ground was so hot. Some people sheltered me with umbrellas and poured water on the ground to cool it. I couldn’t move my body, only my hands and my mouth,” he says.

“I don’t know how to describe the pain. I can only say I felt as though I was dying. I thought about whether I would die, what I had done and not done.”

He was taken to a provincial hospital which looked like it had not been renovated since the 1960s.

“I was rolled into an operating theatre which had fans,” he says, adding that none of the medical staff spoke English.

By then, his riding companions had come to know of his accident and informed his family in Singapore.

Because the hospital was not equipped to deal with his injuries, he had to endure another two-hour bumpy ride to a hospital in Bangkok where his mother and one of his sisters were waiting anxiously.

“I’d been conscious throughout, my eyes were wide open for more than 10 hours. But when I saw my mother, I hyperventilated, cried and then blacked out,” he says.

The next time he regained full consciousness was several weeks later at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

He did not get to go home for the next 15 months.

“I couldn’t sit up or turn sideways for the first eight months. There were pressure sores all over my back and heels,” says Desmond who went through half a dozen operations.

Desmond Lim in his workshop on 14 June 2019. He started The Prosthetic Company three years ago because he felt the variety of prosthetic and orthotic aids here was limited. Knowing what his clients need has helped the business as he understands how they feel and tries to give them what they want.
Source: Kevin Lim

For nearly a year, the sight of wheels – on TV or in newspapers – would set off anxiety attacks.

“I felt lost, I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” he says, adding that he had to see a psychiatrist.

He credits his family and several hospital staff for getting him out of depression.

“Some of the physiotherapists went out of their way to help me. They bought me food and visited me on their days off to encourage me.”

To regain his mobility, he started swimming and walking up and down from his family home on the 11th floor of his flat, even though it took him a few hours.

“I’ve been through it and I know what it is like. I understand how they feel, I listen and try my best to give them what they want.”

He started The Prosthetic Company in 2016 because he felt that the variety of prosthetic and orthotic aids here was limited.

After drawing up a proper business plan, he approached his eldest sister, a professor at a local university, for financial help. By then, Desmond had attended short courses on prosthetics and related subjects in Europe and China.

“I’m not certified and all the doctors and clients I deal with know that. But my staff are. I have good technical knowledge, I know how to troubleshoot. My job is to deal with clients and run the business. We’ve not had a single complaint ever since we started,” he says proudly.

Because others have helped him, Desmond wants to pass the kindness on.

When he recovered, he donated blood several times and took part in support groups for those who have lost their limbs or mobility. As founder of The Prosthetic Company, he now works with different associations to offer free prosthetics to those who can’t afford them.

Life is unpredictable and we have to live it well, he says.

“As long as you’re hardworking and you make decisions not just to benefit yourself, things will turn out well.”

This story by Wong Kim Hoh was originally published by the Straits Times on June 16.

This inspirational tale is part of Wong Kim Hoh’s award-winning profile series, ‘It Changed My Life’, in The Sunday Times. Named Straits Times Journalist of the Year in 2016, the Senior Writer has persuaded many to share how they overcame the darkest moments of their lives. In a book that compiles interviews from Kim Hoh’s column, former ST Deputy Editor Alan John said: “The greatest mystery to me is where Kim Hoh finds this never-ending parade of memorable individuals with remarkable life lessons of determination, strength and resilience.” Kim Hoh has also written other books, one of which is Big Hearts, Big Dreams, a compilation of inspiring stories about the 2015 and 2016 ST Singaporean of the Year nominees. “I get a lot of readers telling me that the stories have moved them, inspired them and galvanised them to do more,” he said. “In some ways, I guess what they are telling me is that the stories have changed their lives.”

Reunited after 37 years

Angelle Burrus (nee Udo) was just months old in her mother’s womb when her father Ndubuisi Dele Udo, a Nigerian-American athlete, was killed in Lagos.

With the help of The Nation, Nigeria’s widest circulating newspaper, Angelle reunited with her long lost kin 37 years later.

An interior decoration professional who lives in St Louis, Missouri, United States, Angelle grew up and married without knowing her father or any of his Nigerian -based family.
An international sprinter, her father was in Lagos for a tournament when he was shot by a policeman during an argument in traffic.

Based on all she heard about her father from her mother and what she read from a collection of 32 newspaper articles, stories and pictures, Angelle’s desire had always been to reconnect with her father’s relatives, especially the Udo family back in Nigeria.

Late Udo on the track. Source: The Nation File Photo

A chance meeting in St. Louis Missouri last December with Taiwo Abiodun a US-based journalist who writes for The Nation presented Angelle the opportunity she had been looking for.

Expressing her desire to the paper, she told her story well enough to get what she had always wanted.

“My name is Angelle Burrus (nee Udo). I am 37 years old, please I want to come to Nigeria to locate my father’s family and see where he was buried,” she said in the report titled ‘I Want To Know My Father’s Family in Nigeria, says late Dele Udo’s daughter’ that was published on Dec 30, 2018. “Please write my story. All I want is to meet my father’s siblings and see my father’s grave in Nigeria,” Angelle declared.

Within hours of the publication’s release, the hitherto hard to find Udo family members who read about Angelle reached out to her on Facebook.

In her Facebook post, an excited Angelle wrote about the link she had looked forward to finding for years:
Dec-7th met Taiwo Abiodun in Missouri
Dec-9th interview conducted about the death of my father 37 years ago.
Dec-30th article published in Nigeria.
Jan-3rd FaceTimed w/her, uncle Luke Udo and cousin Oke ( Nkechi’s brother).
On this day I find out Oke lives 1hr away
Jan-5 First in person meeting with cousin Oke and his wife Dami. He’s the first person EVER to meet me in person from my Nigerian family.
God is amazing I am so blessed and happy!”

To help Angelle accomplish her dream, The Nation’s correspondent in South-Eastern Nigeria where the late Udoh hailed from, Okechukwu Nwankwo ,was briefed by the Lagos headquarters and went in search of her family members back home.

After a series of enquiries, he found Angelle’s stepmother, younger brother, close friend and other acquaintances who were glad to know that the baby Angelle’s mother was carrying when she attended her husband’s burial was indeed alive and keen on meeting them.

A second story was published on Jan 13 titled ‘Late Dele Udo: We are eager to receive his American daughter, wife – Family members’.

“When the news about Angelle trying to reconnect with the father’s family members surfaced in your newspaper, we were very happy. You know at that time, it was only Dele that was the breadwinner, but now, his siblings are doing well in their endeavours. We will be happy to receive her,” said the late Udo’s step mother, Joy Okechukwu.

“Please write my story. All I want is to meet my father’s siblings and see my father’s grave in Nigeria,” Angelle declared.

Udo’s younger brother also spoke about Angelle’s interest in meeting the family: “I think her quest to meet with her father’s family is genuine. 36 years of not knowing any members of her father’s family is long. We had expected this to happen before now, but we are happy she is alive and willing to reunite with her family”

Angelle’s mother, Angella who was initially reluctant to speak with Abiodun about her late husband, was eventually convinced to do so. Her interview titled ‘My lasting memories of Dele Udoh’ was published on Aug 25.

She is happy that her daughter eventually found her father’s family. She had always told Angelle that it was up to her to look for her father’s family and she (Angella) could not do that for her daughter.

Angella, Angelle’s mother with the newspaper publication on the late husband’s death. Source: Taiwo Abiodun

While she would be happy to come to Nigeria if invited by the government, Angella who still retains her marriage name, said emotionally “I was (a) bride, a woman, mum and a widow in one year. I am going to write a book on it.”

Comments on Angelle’s social media post on finding her Nigerian family incited excitement amongst relatives and friends as well as highlighted the impact the publication had made on her life.

Some of the comments included:
Janet Burrus: Wow. Angelle this is awesome …exactly what you have been seeking. You know you are part of our family, but now you know your roots, have blood relatives, you can talk with and answers.
Gail Feldman: I cried when I read this article. Finally after all these years- answers, stories, connections- your dad is alive through you and through your relatives. Beautiful
Luke Udo: We’re all excited my dear, it’s just the beginning, you definitely going to Nigeria soon with me to meet the rest, can’t wait for the trip
Lilian Ify Udo: Can’t wait to meet U and your lovely family. Thanks to all my family member’s for their effort and response to the search/media. Y’all did amazing beautiful in reaching out to Angelle. This is the Lord’s doing.

This story is a compilation of articles by Taiwo Abiodun and Okechukwu Nwankwo that was originally published by The Nation from Dec 30, 2018 to Aug 25.

Angelle’s re-connection with her father’s family would not have been possible if not for US-based Journalist Taiwo Abiodun’s article, which enabled the first contact between both parties in 37 years to happen within twenty four hours of publishing the first story. The Nation correspondent, Okechukwu Nwankwo, also aided the reunion’s success as he spent the last days of 2018 searching for Angelle’s family through various contacts.Nation journalist Abiodun had gone with his wife to the African Palace Restaurant in St Louis owned by a Nigerian when she was introduced to Angelle, daughter of late Udo, who was also visiting the restaurant at that time.
With the support of a friend, Lobo Agaun and his wife, Abiodun was able to book an interview with Angelle at a Mcdonald’s eatery after several phone calls.
Convincing Angella, Angelle’s mother, to speak was much more difficult as she initially declined. With his persistence and support of his wife, Ronnie, Abiodun was finally able to get the 74-year-old woman to eventually open up and talk about her late husband. Through the effort of these reporters, Angelle was able to understand the family she had always longed to meet.