The search for Siti Aishah - Part 3 (The end)

The excitement builds up as Mak Mok may finally get the chance to meet her long lost sister Siti Aishah. Will she finally want to come home?

The search for Siti Aishah - Part 3 (The end) | Astro Awani
I woke up in the morning (okay, late morning!) and headed out for breakfast (okay, lunch!). There wasn’t really anything I could do but wait and see if any updates crop up. I couldn’t help the fact that the British newspaper, who flew my aunty Kamarmahtum (Mak Mok) to London to meet her missing aunty the alleged slave Siti Aishah, took to protecting their exclusivity really seriously.

Allegedly held as a slave for 30 years

I tried calling up the Malaysian High Commission to find out what was happening but everyone I talked to didn’t know anything. It was only much after lunch time that I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer so I headed to their office to see if I could get any better leads face to face.

As soon as I arrived at the Malaysian High Commission, I met one of the staff and he told me that everyone was out and that Mak Mok and Hishammuddin Rais had came over but had also left. I didn’t know what was going on, but somehow, my gut told me that they were on their way to meet Siti Aishah. Again, I couldn’t do anything but wait.

After about two hours of waiting at the lobby, the Malaysian High Commissioner Datuk Seri Zakaria Sulong came into the building. I jumped at him to ask for an update on my two aunties. He told me that he couldn’t reveal any details but Mak Mok and two representatives from the Malaysian High Commission are on their way to meet with Siti Aishah.

The next question I asked was if the British reporter was following them as well (hey, you can’t take the journalist out of me!). He assured me that no one else was allowed to follow them, not the reporter and not Hishammuddin Rais. The British police were very adamant about that. In fact, the meeting location is also a secret that cannot be divulged. Datuk Seri Zakaria promised me that he would let me know if there were anymore updates.

And so I waited again. To kill time, I chatted with the staff and also took a walk around the vicinity. It was winter in London and nightfall was early, not to mention it being very cold. Being in the area where all the embassies are in London, it was also pretty quiet because there wasn’t much pedestrian traffic. In other words, time went by extremely slowly.

It wasn’t until quite late at night, almost approaching midnight, that Datuk Seri Zakaria finally got an official report from his officers who went along with Mak Mok. He was ready to make a statement for me to record. Mak Mok had met her sister Siti Aishah and confirmed that it is definitely her. It was an emotional meeting between two sisters who had not met each other in decades.

As a relative, I was relieved that Mak Mok got her wish to see her sister. I can only imagine how it is like to lose contact with a loved one like that without any news for almost 40 years. I was also relieved for family members back home who were waiting anxiously for some sort of confirmation. They were the first people I broke the news to.

After that, my journalistic responsibility resumed. I sent a Whatsapp message to the newsdesk back at Astro AWANI. They immediately tweeted the breaking news and announced it on the website. Then, I sent the video footage I had recorded and very soon the story was up on television as well. So I guess we managed to scoop that breaking news as well.

Earlier that evening, I had also received a text message from the British reporter who was preventing me from communicating with my own aunty. A Sky News reporter who I had met said to me that he knew the reporter as a friend and that he would have a word with him about my concern for my aunty’s well-being.

The text was an apology of sorts explaining that he was under orders to protect the exclusivity of the story. As a journalist myself, I could understand that, of course. He also said that I need not worry as Mak Mok was well taken care of and she was booked to fly home the next morning. He suggested that I meet her at the airport to get my own exclusive interview.

And so the next morning, I headed down to Heathrow airport in the early morning. I was having a cup of coffee with two Malaysian reporters from competing channels and staff from the Malaysian High Commission when Mak Mok arrived. We called her over to us for a mini press conference. And right after that, I called the Astro AWANI newsdesk and they did a phone interview with Mak Mok for the news at the top of the hour.

From my chat with Mak Mok at the airport, it was hard to judge what really transpired during their meeting. Mak Mok said that Siti Aishah had promised to come home to Malaysia after the investigation was over and she had also written a note for relatives back home assuring them that she will see them soon. However, if you knew Mak Mok, you would also know that she is very feisty and can be forcefully persuasive at times.

A note for everyone at home

It was clear Siti Aishah still felt that she was there of her own free will and she believed that she still had important work to do in the UK. She told Mak Mok that she is happy with her life in the UK and had many friends. Brainwashed or not, that is something only experts can conclude. At the very least, we know it is her and that she is physically well. Now, all the family can do is wait.