Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, is known as an innovative and fast-growing metropolis in a nation renowned for its economic growth. But like every other country, this financial prosperity rarely trickles down to all citizens. Such was the case in this Southeast Asian capital earlier this month, when a woman was sentenced to one day in jail for stealing curtains and window cushions.
On Monday, November 17, Hamsiah Ahmad, 56, pled guilty to having stolen a set of curtains and two sets of couch cushions the previous day. The items, which Ahmad tried to take from an Aeon hypermarket in Kuala Lumpur, would have cost her about 617 Malaysian Ringgit, or roughly $184 USD. In response, the magistrate’s court sentenced her to a day-long jail term and a fine of RM 1,000, or $278.
During the trial, Ahmad’s lawyer, Counsel Zulkifli Awang, called for a light punishment, pointing out that both his client and her husband are unemployed and dependent on their two adult children. However, the magistrate, Zuraini Abdul Razak, stated that the defendant was mature enough to know that stealing even a relatively small amount was an offense. He then ordered Ahmad to serve an additional two months in jail if she fails to pay her fine.
On the surface, Hamsiah Ahmad’s crime seems fairly shallow: after all, the woman attempted to steal couch cushions and curtains. But if Counselor Awang’s comments about her dependency are true, there may be more to the story. Curtains, especially, offer far more to the average home than decoration, particularly in Malaysia, which is known for its wet, warm temperatures.
Following Ahmad’s case, the magistrate’s court also sentenced an unemployed man who was accused of abusing his sister. If these two cases are any indication, Kuala Lumpur may not be as progressive as it has been portrayed. But if legal cases are any indication, what city is?