Riduan Masmud, the 40-year-old who shocked the nation after being charged with raping the minor and later declared that he had married her in the midst of the case, has opened up for the first time on why he decided to take the girl as his second wife.
The restaurant manager defended his action, saying it was a case of suka sama suka (mutual consent), adding that it was acceptable under Syariah law.
It could not be ascertained whether the girl met Riduan while she was at school or whether she had been working for him. She is from a very poor family.
As his rape case came up for mention at a Sessions Court yesterday, Riduan told reporters that he had known the girl for about six months and felt he had the right (to marry an underage girl).
“There are many cases of men marrying underage girls. I do not see why my case should be any different,“ said the father of four children, aged between two and 17. He declined to say if any of them is a girl.
Riduan was speaking to reporters outside the courtroom after Sessions Court Judge Ummu Khatom Abd Samad set July 1 to 4 to hear the case.
Judge Ummu Khatom gave the Attorney-General's Chambers until June 6 to make a decision on whether to proceed with the case.
Riduan was charged on Feb 28 with raping the girl inside a car parked by the roadside in Inanam near here at 10am on Feb 18.
On May 7, DPP Ahmad Nazmeen Zulkifli told the court he had no objection for the case to be withdrawn after the girl withdrew the rape report against the man April 18.
It is understood that it was the girl's aunt who lodged the police report after she found out about the “affair”.
The courtroom was packed yesterday with concerned groups turning up in full force. Many women interest groups and NGOs turned up for the hearing yesterday, including Befrienders Kota Kinabalu president Datuk Seri Siti Rubiah Abdul Samad, the wife of Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
All eyes were on the girl who appeared briefly in court. She has a childlike face, wore some make up, and tied up her long hair in a pony tail. Thin and looking under-developed, she was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans.
Riduan said he would let his child-wife finish her studies first and “maybe later take up a cosmetic course with my first wife”, adding that she was a make-up artist.
His wife also told the press that she had accepted the teenager to be her husband's second wife and promised to guide her through her studies.
However, Riduan stopped talking and moved away from the media when he was signalled by a lawyer not to talk.
The girl's father, who was also at the court, said he accepted his daughter's marriage to Riduan as they liked each other.
“It is best for her that they get married. What else can I do?” he added.
As the case came up for mention yesterday, DPP Chaw Siang Kong told the court that he needed time to review the case as it involved public interest.
Lawyers Datuk Mariati Robert and Mary Lee held watching briefs for Sabah Law Association and the Sabah Women Action Resource Group respectively.
Counsel Loretto J. Padua informed the court that the Syariah marriage certificates had been presented to the investigating officer and confirmed that the two were now married.
The court ordered that the man's RM8,000 bail be extended till June 6.
By STEPHANIE LEE and MUGUNTAN VANAR