KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has called an incident in which a Malaysian student was evicted over fears of the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak “disgraceful and un-Australian”.
National broadcaster ABC Australia reported earlier this week that the student studying in Perth had flown to Malaysia on January 24 for the Chinese New Year holidays but discovered her landlord had evicted her upon her return on February 4.
The student, who only wants to be known as Helen, did not travel to China during this time.
When she arrived at her accommodation at around 4am on February 4, she discovered the locks to the main door had been changed and a note taped to it addressing her.
In it, the landlord claimed the house was in lockdown due to the coronavirus, and that Helen’s failure to stay in contact with him during her absence meant she was no longer welcome in the house. Her belongings were left outside the house to be collected.
When contacted by ABC Australia, McGowan expressed his dismay over the incident.
“We are hearing far too many stories about people facing hate and discrimination just for their heritage.
“Authorities are taking the novel coronavirus very seriously and there are a range of strict measures in place to prevent it from spreading. Now is the time for us to rally behind the communities that are feeling the effects of this outbreak and extend a helping hand,” he was quoted as saying.
Helen, who had been renting a room in the townhouse since last November, told ABC Australia that she did not receive any messages during her time away, but found several text messages from her landlord had been sent to her once she landed in Australia.
One of these text messages informed her that she was being evicted because she had decided to return to Malaysia, with the landlord justifying his decision out of concern for the welfare of his family and friends.
“It was a hard decision to make between family and friends, but as you have travelled, we are very concerned and you are no longer welcome to come back to the house,” read the lengthy message.
Helen was quoted by ABC Australia as saying the situation had left her feeling sad and confused.
She admitted, however, that despite seeking police assistance, no action can be taken because she did not sign a rental lease.
Instead, she had verbally agreed with the in-resident landlord to pay A$86 (RM239.58) a week along with other bills and expenses.
Attempts by ABC Australia to contact the landlord have gone unanswered.