Anyone who has been to hospital will know that stringent checks are conducted. Fill the form incorrectly, and the counter staff will bark at you.
At the immigration counter of the airport or any of the entry points into Malaysia, anyone who fidgets with his phone or does not stand to attention, will get extra scrutiny from the counter staff.
So how one earth did an Uzbek woman enter Malaysia and for seven years, manage to defraud the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH)?
The newspapers will report the punishment given to the individual, but what about the government officials and civil servants who were involved in the crime?
Are the government servants punished, even if it is a case of sheer incompetence, poor management practices, inadequacies in the system, or a simple need for retraining?
On 15 January, a 39-year-old single mother from Uzbekistan was jailed for three years by the Magistrate’s Court. She had used someone else’s identity card to gain treatment at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH) for seven years.
On the surface, it seems a simple case of fraudulent misrepresentation at the KLH, and many Malaysians will be furious that a foreigner managed to cheat the KLH and denied a citizen their right to healthcare, especially when hospital beds may be limited, or there is a waiting list for some types of treatment, or foreigners refuse to pay the higher medical charges.
These are the facts that were reported in many papers.
Arslanova Oksana Leonidovna is a single mother of four children and for the past seven years she was treated at the KLH.
On 31 December 2020, Leonidovna was finally caught trying to impersonate 48-year-old Kerinjeet Kaur Tharam Singh, when she used a copy of Kerinjeet’s identity card to seek treatment at KLH.
The Magistrate Court charged Leonidovna with two crimes.
The first crime involves the KLH treatment. Her charge was read to her in Malay, by a court interpreter and she pleaded guilty. She was charged under Section 420, of the Penal Code which provides a jail term of not less than a year and a maximum of 10 years, caning and fine.
Leonidovna also pleaded guilty to a charge of entering the country without a valid pass. She was charged under Section 6 (1) (c) of the Immigrations Act 1959/63 (Amendment 2002) and was punished under Section 6(3) of the same act. The penalty is a fine of not less than RM30,000 and imprisonment of not less than 5 years, but not more than 10 years, and a caning of not more than 6 strokes. For this crime, Leonidovna was jailed for one month.
Leonidovna was not represented in court, and only Sinar Harian reported that her husband had died.
Despite her appeal for a lighter sentence, as a single mother with four children, the court ordered both punishments to occur simultaneously, effective from the date of her arrest in December, 2020.
There are many questions that remain unanswered.
Did Leonidovna trick the KLH for seven years using the same identity card, which belonged to Kerinjeet Kaur? Did Kerinjeet ever report her identity card missing, or is she complicit in this crime?
How did Leonidovna deceive the KLH staff for seven years? She posed as an older woman, but more importantly, one would imagine that the features of the Uzbek woman, with a genetic pool of Mongolian, Chinese, Turkic and Russian would be different from a Sikh. Was the admissions staff at KLH not aware?
Most Malaysians know that the staff at most, if not all, Malaysian hospitals are scrupulous about admissions. Any wrong entry on a form will generate a lot of questions, so it is curious that the KLH admissions staff were so careless.
The KLH provided medical treatment to Leonidovna for seven years. So how was she finally caught? What happened to make KLH suspect that Leonidovna was not whom she claimed to be? Did her medical records not match official records of Kerinjeet, from an earlier treatment?
We were not told when Leonidovna first came to Malaysia, and the newspapers claimed that she had entered Malaysia without a valid pass. As an Uzbek does not need a visa to enter Malaysia, why was it claimed that she had entered illegally?
Had she entered Malaysia via one of the rat routes along the border with Thailand, or had she simply overstayed her visit? If she overstayed, she will be deported after her sentence has been served.
Were any immigration staff complicit in her entry? Several allegations have been made about human trafficking and corrupt immigration staff. Was Leonidovna’s entry facilitated by one or more of them?
Had Leonidovna been promised work by a company but found that she had been tricked into paying thousands of ringgits to snakehead agents for nothing, like many desperate and gullible migrants?
How did she evade the police and immigration for at least seven years? How did she survive and sustain herself and her four children? Was she working illegally?
Why was she not represented in court? Is legal aid not available, or was she not informed that she could have access to legal aid?
How good is her Malay and did she understand the charges made against her, which were read to her, in Malay?
Was Leonidovna allowed to contact the Uzbekistan embassy? If not, why not?
Finally, was Leonidovna married to a Malaysian? Are her children Uzbek, or Malaysian? Were her children born in Malaysia, and were their births registered? What will happen to them, while she serves her sentence?
There is more to Leonidovna’s case, than just overstaying or defrauding KLH. At the very least, prosecute everyone implicated in the Uzbek single mother case.