Maid abuse trial: Previous helper also complained of inadequate food, says agent

Maid abuse trial: Previous helper also complained of inadequate food, says agent

According to the maid agent, the first maid he provided to the Lims similarly complained about being fed only instant noodles and bread.

SINGAPORE: Ms Thelma Oyasan Gawidan was not the first maid employed by the Lims to complain about not being given adequate food or rest, maid agent Toh Ah Choon testified on Wednesday morning (Dec 16).

Lim Choon Hong and his wife, Chong Sui Foon, both 47, are on trial for allegedly starving Ms Thelma over 15 months, until she weighed just 29kg.

Mr Toh told the court that the first maid he provided to the Lims similarly complained about being fed only instant noodles and bread. She also complained about the couple's "sleeping patterns", which required her to work overnight and sleep during the day. The Indonesian woman was eventually transferred to another employer.

Mr Toh also testified that he would explain to employers the conditions of hiring a domestic helper, including that employers are responsible for the maid's "maintenance and upkeep". This includes giving the maid adequate food and rest, Mr Toh said, adding that Lim and Chong should have been aware of these rules.

MAID WAS DEPRIVED OF FOOD: DIETICIAN

The sixth and final witness to testify for the prosecution was Ms Gladys Wong, chief dietician at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Ms Wong testified that "while Ms Thelma's weight loss of 20kg over 15 months is not drastic", it added up to a significant 40 per cent of her body weight, and caused her body mass index (BMI) to fall into the grossly underweight range.

A weight loss of such a scale is cause for concern, Ms Wong said, adding that she had come to the same conclusion as other doctors who had examined Ms Thelma: That she had been deprived of food.

Ms Wong further illustrated this point by comparing what Ms Thelma said she had been fed – two packets of instant noodles and up to nine slices of bread a day – to recommended daily intakes according to Health Promotion Board guidelines.

Ms Wong found Ms Thelma to be "in deficit of 300 to 500 calories a day, at least" and likely deficient in vitamins and minerals, such as iron and zinc.

The lack of iron would explain the cessation of Ms Thelma's menstruation, Ms Wong said. "If she is in starvation mode, the body will physiologically (prevent the loss of) blood, which contains iron," she explained.

Ms Wong added that Ms Thelma was not starved enough to have become delirious, but would have been "lucid enough to realise that she was starving". "It is quite sad,” she said.

The defence will present its case on Wednesday afternoon, with four witnesses expected to take the stand, including the two accused.

If found guilty, Lim and Chong could be jailed up to 12 months, fined up to S$10,000, or both, under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Source: CNA/cy