SINGAPORE: Getting hit with a saucepan, kicked in the stomach and having faeces rubbed in her face - these were some instances of abuse Indonesian national Sri Rahayu was put through, just months after becoming a foreign domestic worker in Singapore.
The couple she worked for, Ooi Wei Voen and her husband Pang Chen Yong, both 37, pleaded guilty on Monday (Aug 30) to a total of seven charges of abusing her.
Ooi was sentenced to 20 months in prison, while Pang was handed a four-month jail term.
The court heard that Ms Sri Rahayu began working for the couple in April 2017. They have a son aged two at the time and a nine-month-old girl.
Around July that year, Pang and Ooi began to hit the 33-year-old maid when she failed to complete the housework to their satisfaction.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Goh Qi Shuen told the court that Ooi would slap Ms Sri Rahayu on both cheeks until they turned red, pound her forehead with her fist or hit her hand with a metal ruler when she was upset with the maid.
“On another occasion, in order to punish the victim for failing to make sure that the laundry was dry, Ooi instructed the victim to wet her clothes and sleep in them,” said Ms Goh, adding that the maid did as she was told.
In August 2017, during a hotel stay in Sentosa, Ooi became upset when her daughter started to cry and she realised that the baby's milk was too hot.
Ooi pounded the maid’s forehead and eye with her fist, Ms Goh said, noting that these were especially painful as her forehead was already bruised from previous incidents.
As a result, the victim’s forehead and eye became swollen and she was unable to see properly, the prosecutor said.
“Ooi made the victim wear a tudung when they left the hotel, in order to cover up her swollen forehead,” she added.
The prosecution noted that on one occasion between July and November that year, Ooi rubbed Ms Sri Rahayu’s face with her daughter’s faeces-filled diaper. In another incident, Ooi told the maid to drink water from the toilet bowl, which she did as she did not want to be hit.
In October 2017, Ooi got angry with Ms Sri Rahayu as the baby was crying and refused to sleep, said Ms Goh. Ooi grabbed a flask - which the maid had earlier filled with boiling water - and poured the water on the victim.
Pang had also scolded the maid about not doing her chores well, before hitting her on the arms with a saucepan several times, stopping only when the handle broke. This caused the victim to sustain bruises and swelling on both arms, said Ms Goh.
The victim was not allowed to hang clothes on the balcony or leave the unit to throw rubbish as Ooi was afraid that the neighbours would see the bruising on her arms, the prosecutor said.
In another instance, while at work, Ooi saw via CCTV footage that Ms Sri Rahayu was doing other chores and had left the children unattended.
She later beat the Indonesian woman's thighs multiple times with a metal ladle, causing her to faint from the pain. The victim’s legs were left swollen and bruised, and she had difficulty walking for several days after.
Sometime between October and November that year, Pang noticed that the baby was crying and blamed the victim for being late in preparing milk, the prosecution said.
He then grabbed, pulled and scratched the maid’s ears, causing them to become itchy and swollen. There was also bleeding from her left ear.
A few days later, Ooi alleged that Ms Sri Rahayu had sneezed near the baby’s milk bottle and gave the maid a slap to her left ear, causing it to become more swollen and painful.
On Nov 22, 2017, Ooi took the domestic worker to a clinic for her mandatory six-monthly check-up, during which the doctor spoke only to Ooi, the court heard.
The medical report stated that the victim was bitten by an unknown insect, which was untrue, and she was prescribed antibiotics for her ear, the prosecutor said.
On Dec 30, Ooi took Ms Sri Rahayu to a clinic again as the swelling had not subsided. The maid was told to lie to the doctor that she already had a deformed left ear before coming to Singapore.
“The victim was prescribed antibiotics and advised to visit a specialist for further management. However, the victim was not brought to a specialist,” said Ms Goh.
On Jan 1, 2018, at about 1am, angry with the maid for not informing him that the baby had a fever, Pang used a plastic scoop to splash cold water onto her head, then used it to hit her head several times.
Ooi then called her stupid and kicked her in the stomach. The victim fell and bumped her head, and Ooi continued kicking her while she was on the ground.
Ms Sri Rahayu escaped while the couple was attending to the baby and sought help from another Indonesian maid who happened to be passing by. She was taken to a police station and later to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
The prosecution sought a four-and-a-half month jail term for Pang, as well as two years and three months in jail for Ooi.
Ms Goh said that the couple had taken out their frustrations on a vulnerable victim, who did not have a mobile phone. As a foreigner working in Singapore for the first time, she had limited recourse to seek help, she added.
She noted that Ooi suffered from major depressive disorder with peripartum offset at the time, which had a contributory link to her offences.
Pang was also found to suffer from major depressive disorder, which may have caused him to be more impulsive in reacting to stress.
Ms Goh argued, however, that these were not shown to have substantially contributed to their offences.
She said that the couple exhibited control, as the acts were concentrated on one individual and were not done indiscriminately.
The prosecutor also pointed to how Pang and Ooi had taken pains to conceal Ms Sri Rahayu’s injuries.
The couple’s lawyer, Mervyn Tan of Anthony Law Corporation, contended that the couple had tried to treat the Indonesian national as part of the family, taking her out for meals and allowing her to continue taking care of their children.
The couple had no one to turn to during difficult times, pointing to their depressive disorders, the defence said.
Principal district judge Toh Han Li said, however, that their condition did not diminish their responsibility, adding that unhappiness with the maid’s conduct should not result in such abuse.
Pang began serving his sentence on Monday, while Ooi’s sentence was deferred to Jan 3, to allow at least one parent to be around to take care of their children.