SINGAPORE: For 11 months, the maid endured “frequent abuse” at the hands of her employer, who spat on her face, called her names, withheld her salary and on one occasion, ripped her tudung, or headscarf, off her head.
Ms Intan Atikah tried to run away once, but was caught and “carried back to the flat”, the court heard. Neighbours had called the police to their block at Clementi Avenue 3 at least three times between December 2015 and March 2016, alarmed by the maid’s loud cries and concerned that she was being beaten.
On Wednesday (Jun 28), her employer, Suriyati Matrawee, 42, was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail. She was convicted of three charges, including two for using criminal force against Ms Intan, 28, and one for hurting her. Another three charges were taken into consideration.
8-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER ALSO ABUSED THE MAID
It was Suriyati’s eight-year-old daughter who first began to abuse the maid, shortly after Ms Intan started working for the family in April 2015, the court heard. The girl punched and kicked the maid’s face and arms, and though Ms Intan told Suriyati about the abuse, the mother did not put a stop to it.
Suriyati started abusing the maid herself in December 2015, Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Rene Jeyaraj said. On Dec 12, neighbours called the police to report “loud banging noises” coming from the flat. “I heard (the) maid shouting, I think (she is) getting beaten”, the neighbour told police.
Suriyati admitted she spat on Ms Intan’s face about five times because the maid had not “finished ironing the clothes on time”.
When officers arrived at the flat, Suriyati hugged Ms Intan and begged her not to tell the police what she had done. The maid believed her employer would change, and did not tell the officers about the abuse.
But later that same day, while Ms Intan was working in the kitchen, Suriyati grabbed her and stepped on her foot, twisting it. The maid’s foot started to swell and bruise, but Suriyati did not take her to a doctor.
EMPLOYER PULLED OFF MAID’S TUDUNG AND THREW IT AWAY
On a car ride home in February 2016, Suriyati, helped by her daughter, pulled the maid’s tudung off and stepped on it, because she was angry Ms Intan had not “looked after the children” properly. The eight-year-old helped her mother pull off the maid’s tudung and had also hit her. When they got out of the car, Suriyati threw the headscarf away.
The maid was “distressed … insulted and offended by (Suriyati’s) actions”, DPP Jeyaraj said. “Suriyati was being disrespectful to her religious beliefs.” The maid had also recalled the humiliation she felt when her employer repeatedly spat on her face, DPP Jeyaraj told the court.
He added Suriyati had withheld the maid’s salary for five months in 2015 and 2016, paying her only after police turned up at the flat following the neighbours’ calls.
ABUSE WAS “DEPLORABLE” AND “DEGRADING”: JUDGE
When Ms Intan tried to run away on Mar 6, 2016, Suriyati chased after her. A neighbour saw Suriyati and a man pry the maid’s hands off a railing and carry her back into the flat. The concerned neighbour called the police after he heard “a loud bang” coming from the flat and “the maid crying loudly”.
This time, when officers arrived, Ms Intan told them about the abuse.
Sentencing Suriyati to 16 weeks’ jail on Wednesday, District Judge Mathew Joseph said the mother’s actions were “deplorable” and had set a bad example for her three children.
Besides her eight-year-old daughter, Suriyati has two sons aged seven and four.
Judge Joseph also said the abuse was “degrading” and chastised the woman for her “shameless audacity” in telling the maid not to report the abuse. “You tried to cover up your conduct when (the police) arrived, clearly you knew (what you did) was wrong”, the judge said.