By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Prompt action by an auxiliary policeman helped save a 28-year-old woman who decided to end her life by jumping into the sea from the second Penang Bridge recently. The high drama took place at the centre span of the iconic Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge at around 11am on Wednesday, April 18. The 24-km bridge, which took over six years to complete, was formally opened to the public on March 1, 2014. The bridge spans the southern channel of the sea from Batu Muang on the island to Batu Kawan on the mainland. As it stands, it is the longest bridge in the country and in South East Asia.
Zaidi Salleh, 52, was on patrol duty on the bridge when he was alerted by a colleague that a woman had jumped off the bridge. He raced to the spot and saw the woman clinging on to a pillar of the bridge in the water. He lashed an empty jerry can to his waist and after tying a towing strap to a lamp post, he inched his way down. He then dived feet first into the sea and swam to the very frightened woman. He used the jerry can as a makeshift buoy for them to cling on while waiting for assistance. As he waited the sea current swept them away into the open sea. Soon after a fishing boat came by and the duo were rescued. They were in the water for over 40 minutes. Luckily, the sea was calm and the channel was devoid of passing ships and freighters.
Zaidi’s quick thinking saved the distraught woman from certain death in a watery grave. A two-and-a-half-minute video, taken by a fisherman and posted on Facebook, went viral and by 4pm the same day ordinary Malaysians got to witness Zaidi’s heroic deed on their smartphones. I was no exception, as I received mine from my brother whose house was just a short distance from the incident. He resides in Bayan Baru on the island and, as the crow flies, is about three miles away.
I have frequently used the second bridge to get to Penang and back. Although it is a wee bit further compared to the first bridge, the journey is a breeze as traffic is seldom heavy while the view is simply marvelous. Both bridges have witnessed many suicides and suicide attempts. According to police records, 44 people have jumped off the first bridge while four cases were recorded on the second bridge.
Not much is known about the Malay woman who was spared an untimely death by Zaidi’s spontaneous reaction. Based on media reports she is from Permatang Pauh near Butterworth. She is a former PhD student with excellent academic results but is facing financial problems. Whether she is married or otherwise is not known. Since she drives a Toyota Avanza it can be safely assumed that she is gainfully employed but single, perhaps. However, how many Malay women are single at 28? I am making assumptions based on information made known to me.
She could be burdened by problems relating to money and family. The fact that she refused to be taken home after being rescued confirmed my suspicion. But someone of her age and disposition, the idea of ending her ‘wretched’ life seems a little odd. Moreover, she is a Muslim and suicide is deemed haram (taboo) in Islam.
But there again, suicide among youths is quite rampant today. And the things that drive them to end their lives prematurely are money and love. Money problems can stem from a variety of reasons. For a youthful adolescent, like the woman in question, repayment of education loan (the dread PTPTN) could be the motivating factor. Having little or no resources to service her loan, suicide seems the only plausible option left, damning though it may be.
On the morning of Wednesday, October 26, 2016 a small time Malay trader ended his life in similar fashion. His body was recovered from the sea the following day. The poor man was feeling frustrated after being apprehended by Customs for selling RM360 worth of contraband cigarettes. He wrote a bitter note on Facebook condemning the authorities for picking on minions like him while condoning the actions of the high and mighty. Coincidentally, he was supposed to appear at the Butterworth court that morning for arbitration.
Those who resort to suicide, as a means to an end, are considered cowards. This is the accepted social norm. But how can you be a coward when you have the courage to end your life? This question bugs me to this day. Perhaps there is an element of bravery in them. After all, who wants to die ignominiously?
Now back to our superhero, Zaidi Salleh. Being an ex-serviceman I am mighty proud of him. Zaidi was a sergeant with the elite Paskau (Pasukan Khas Angkatan Udara), the commando wing of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. The regiment is based in Bukit Jugra, Selangor while its units are spread all over the country, especially at air force bases. This special force detachment was formed in 1980 and has grown in size over the years. The men are well trained to handle crises and emergencies and can be deployed to any troubled spot where our air assets are located. In short, Zaidi is the man for the job despite his age. He had undergone rigorous training both on land and in the sea.
The 14th General Election (GE14) is around the corner. On Wednesday, May 9 Malaysians of voting age will go to the polls to decide who will administer this country for the next five years. The tussle is between Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH). There are other minor political parties in contention but their presence is either to frustrate or enhance the two contenders. Campaigning has begun in earnest over the past weeks and days. Both parties have resorted to social media to propagate their ideas in the form of manifestoes. They have illustrated, in detail, the directions they will adopt should they be picked to form the government.
Have you made up your mind? Foremost, are you a registered voter? Here are some glaring facts for your consumption post GE 13:
Voting age population: 17,883,697-18,400,570. Registered but didn’t vote: 2,010,855. Didn’t register: 4,615,695-5,132,568. Total didn’t vote: 6,626,550-7,143,423.
If you have registered as a voter go out and vote. Don’t allow an opportunity this big to slip past you unnoticed. Let us all vote for a better future. Incidentally, BN has been in power for over six decades. It is touted to be the longest-ruling political party in the world.