Maslinda Zainal, a 44 year old former Head of Department (HOD) at Woodgrove Secondar School (WSS), faces two criminal breach of trust charges as a public servant. She was alleged to have misappropriated, between Jan 2016 and April 2017, some $40,000 meant for learning materials.
During her recent testimony for an ancillary hearing into the taking of a police statement, Maslinda charged that she was harassed, humiliated, and mentally abused by her superiors at the school, as well as investigators from the Ministry of Education (MOE) and SPF.
Maslinda claimed that the MOE investigators refused to believe that the extra money she collected was, as she claimed, for the purchase of assessment books and stationery, meant for her students. She claimed that while she did not have any receipts for the purchases, the items were kept in her cubicle. MOE investigators however allegedly did not allow her access to her cubicle and ransacked them.
She was also repeatedly accused of splurging the money on herself. Maslinda felt that she was treated as guilty even before any proper investigations when they kept 'harassing' her to admit her guilt.
The humiliation was compounded when police officers arrived, handcuffed her, and escorted to a waiting police car, in front of her colleagues and students.
According to Maslinda, she was taken to Jurong Police Station where she was "handcuffed to a railing at the basement carpark for about an hour, before she was taken for photo-taking, finger-printing, and blood sampling." She also alleged that they took away her belongings, and told her to remove her hijab and speactacles.
In addition, Maslinda claimed that a police officer threatened her with a life sentence because she of the CBT charges she is facing as a civil servant.
If indeed she is found guilty of CBT, Maslinda can be fined for each charge, and jailed for up to 10 years.
Maslinda has to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
There are surely established procedures for both investigators from the MOE and SPF to adhere to. The claims by Maslinda may be a ruse for her to divert attention away from the case against her.
Nevertheless, these reports of abuses need to be investigated and accounted for. Procedures also need to be reviewed so that the principle of an accused being treated as innocent until proven guilty, is not undermined.