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Ng Jun Sen
Friday, Jun 27, 2014

Singapore

Mum's threat a wake-up call for repeat offender

The New Paper | Ng Jun Sen | Friday, Jun 27, 2014

Mr Mirwazy Adam (left), 33, and his superior at Burger King, business manager Ms Leong Su Ching.

He has been in and out of prison three times, spending about a decade of his life behind bars.

And history would have repeated itself, were it not for his mother's threat to never see him again.

In a letter to him in jail, Mr Mirwazy Adam's mother, 50, wrote: "If you end up in jail again, I will no longer visit you... this is the last time."

He said he does not interact with his father or sister.

Eyes welling with tears, the 33-year-old recounted yesterday how it made him feel.

"I never thought about it before, but (the letter) was a reminder for me to do something useful with my life," said the drug offender.

Towards the end of his six-and-a-half-year term, Mr Mirwazy found employment with the help of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score).

Three months before his release in February, he enrolled in Score's Hope Cafe.

Hope Cafe, which was officially launched at Changi Prison Complex yesterday, trains inmates with skills in the food-and-beverage (F&B) industry.

The programme also helped Mr Mirwazy bag his current job as a trainee manager at Burger King shortly after his release.

He said: "Now my mother tells me that she is proud of me. She's proud that I can even hold on to this kind of position in a company."

But his new lease of life almost didn't happen.

He served only six-and-a-half years of his nine-year jail sentence due to a two-thirds remission scheme.

After he was released in 2004 for his second offence, he went to more than 50 job interviews. All of them turned him down.

Referring to his criminal record, Mr Mirwazy said: "I think it's obvious why I was rejected so many times."

HOPE

So when he was thrown into jail once again in 2007, he lost hope for his future.

"I was quite naughty. I was just shocked that I was convicted for nine years. I thought that was it," he said.

"With my previous convictions, I didn't have much confidence in getting a job. I have a chequered past."

His turning point was the letter from his mother, who lives in Malaysia and made it a point to visit him once every three months.

He acted on this new resolve by indicating his interest in job placement during a Score briefing.

At the Hope Cafe, he pursued the Workforce Skills Qualifications Certificate in F&B Operations, which required him to put in up to 132 hours of training while in jail.

For the three months before his release, he learnt skills in service, food and drinks preparation, safety and hygiene.

When his current superior, Ms Leong Su Ching, 45, interviewed him in prison, he jumped at the opportunity to impress.

Ms Leong, a business manager at Burger King, said: "I had my apprehensions at first, but I was looking at whether he had the sincerity, the commitment and the skills for the job. He did."

Within three months of starting work, Mr Mirwazy was put in charge of 11 kitchen crew at the Burger King outlet at Marina Square.

But getting used again to life as a free man has not been without its challenges.

"I struggled with managing people at first. That's because in jail, I had been programmed to think like a prisoner," he said.

"On my job, I had to learn to be the one giving instructions instead.

"I even have to re-learn how to use the phone as it's very different now."

His subordinates don't know that he is an ex-offender - only those at the management level know about it because that is company policy.

Mr Mirwazy said he does not mind if the crew finds out as "that part of my life is over".

"I hope my story will inspire them."

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