SINGAPORE — Two weeks into a domestic helper’s employment, her employer began abusing her over trivial matters, slapping the Indonesian national with so much force that her nose bled.
The employer, 39-year-old Singaporean Ong Si Mien, pleaded guilty on Thursday (25 February) to three out of six counts of voluntarily causing hurt to her 33-year-old domestic helper Yulia, who only goes by one name.
The remaining charges, involving hitting the maid’s mouth so that it bled, and slapping her cheek twice, will be taken into consideration for her sentencing. All the offences occurred between July and September 2016.
Ong’s lawyer, Amarjit Singh, sought a mandatory treatment order (MTO) or a fine for his client, telling the court that she had suffered from an array of psychiatric issues. Ong runs her own company from home.
Maid fled with belongings after persistent abuse
Ong was Yulia’s first employer after she came to work in Singapore on 16 July 2016. A few weeks into her employment, she was in the kitchen with Ong when the employer scolded her for keeping all the metal bowls in the cupboard instead of leaving three bowls on the shelves.
Ong then took a few bowls out and hit the side of Yulia’s head with the base of one bowl. Yulia saw that the bowl was slightly dented after the incident. The maid approached Ong’s husband in the living room and said she wanted to be transferred back to the agency.
However Ong said that the maid was “not allowed to be transferred” and scolded Yulia for talking to her husband.
In August 2016, Yulia was about to take a shower after being instructed by Ong’s mother-in-law to boil some Chinese herbs. Ong came home then and asked her why she was showering at a later time.
She scolded the maid before answering a phone in the flat. After finishing the call, Ong used the phone to hit Yulia on top of her head. Despite her pain, Yulia remained in front of Ong as Ong had instructed Yulia to remain still when Ong was angry at her.
When Yulia again requested for a transfer, Ong refused and told her she would transfer her to India.
On 24 September 2016, Ong told Yulia to change her four-year-old son’s clothes and watched as the maid did so. She scolded Yulia for putting on her son’s pants wrongly and slapped the victim’s face, causing her nose to bleed.
After Ong left the flat with her son, Yulia decided to leave. She took her belongings and walked to Jalan Kayu with only some coins she had brought with her from Indonesia. She sought help from a passerby at a bus stop in Jalan Kayu, who called the police.
Yulia was then brought to the hospital by the police. She was found with a tender nasal bridge while at the hospital.
Prosecution rejects mandatory treatment order
Deputy Public Prosecutor Soh Wei Qi sought a jail term of eight months for Ong and a compensation order of $5,200, which will also include the four months of Yulia’s salary for the period she was unemployed.
The prosecution rejected an MTO for Ong, citing how an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist had deemed that Ong’s post-natal depression had only partially diminished her ability to exercise self-control.
However, defence lawyer Amarjit said that the IMH psychiatrist indicated a causal link between Ong’s psychiatric conditions and the offences. Ong suffers from depression with anxiety and had an episode of post-natal depression after giving birth to a second son. She also had borderline obsessive compulsive traits, and is still undergoing treatment at IMH. The lawyer added that his client had to care for her younger son, who has epilepsy. The couple are not able to engage a maid to care for their son.
Amarjit said that given his client’s medical issues, a jail term would serve no purpose.
District Judge Eddy Tham adjourned sentencing to 4 March.
A charge of voluntarily causing hurt carries a jail term of up to two years, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. As Ong is an employer who caused hurt to a maid under her employ, her punishment may be enhanced by up to one and a half times.
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