The Indonesian maid with a dog’s life


By Mariam Mokhtar

Indonesian maid Adelina Lisao, who was allegedly abused by her employers, died at the Bukit Mertajam Hospital on Sunday, Feb 11. She was only 26 years old.

She had bruises on her head and face, and chemical burns on her limbs which had become infected. Post-mortem results showed that she was anaemic and had died of multiple organ failure.

Adelina’s alleged mistreatment is far from the first to be highlighted. Maids have been beaten unconscious, starved, sexually and mentally abused, threatened, denied holidays and had their passports confiscated by their employers.

When will the government come down on employers who mistreat their maids?

A few weeks ago, the employers of a Cambodian maid who died from starvation received a paltry 10-year jail sentence. When she died, 24-year-old Mey Sichan weighed only 26kg. With good behaviour, perhaps her employers will be released early. The sentence is not a deterrent.

Why did it take so long to rescue Adelina? She reportedly worked in a semi-detached house in Taman Kota Permai. It is not as if the house were an isolated bungalow, miles from the nearest neighbour. Shouting was heard every other day.

A neighbour claimed that Adelina had wounds on her hands and legs. She was reportedly seen sleeping on a torn mat on the porch alongside the family’s pet Rottweiler for the past two months. Did this only come to light after a police report was lodged, or did the neighbours know, and for how long?

Perhaps Adelina could have been saved if her plight had been reported earlier. She was treated like a dog. Was she also fed scraps? It was also reported that she was denied medicine and medical aid.

It was disingenuous of the Indonesian consul in Butterworth, Neni Kurniati, to say that Adelina had not complained about her employer, for whom she had been working for the past three years.

Once the gates of the employer’s house close, the maid is imprisoned. She has no contact with the outside world unless her employer brings her for visits to a clinic or to the consulate to have her passport extended. Is Kurniati out of touch with what happens in Malaysia?

The maid may not have had access to a phone, or her phone may have been confiscated. How would she purchase a SIM card? How would she get to a post office to mail a letter?

When authorities went to the house to make initial inquiries, Adelina was reportedly too scared to talk. Even the police were unable to speak with her to find out what had transpired.

If you were in her place, wouldn’t you be afraid if you were questioned by uniformed personnel?

So many questions remain unanswered. Adelina’s fate could have been avoided, but she was failed by a faulty system and our own inability to reach out.

We say we don’t want to get involved because it is someone else’s problem. But in the end, it becomes our problem and it will not be resolved until our MPs pass laws to protect the rights of migrant workers – laws that are strictly enforced.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.