Couple jailed for starving maid and causing her to lose 20kg

Couple jailed for starving maid and causing her to lose 20kg
Flipino domestic worker Thelma Oyasan Gawidan's health suffered when she was given only plain bread and instant noodles by Madam Chong Sui Fon, and her husband Lim Choon Hon.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

At 1am each day, Filipino domestic worker Thelma Oyasan Gawidan was given around two to three slices of plain white bread, and one to two packets of instant noodles.

That was her first meal of the day.

Her second meal, which was given to her by her employer in the late morning, would usually be five to six slices of plain white bread.

And when Madam Gawidan wanted to drink water, she would have to ask her employer's wife, Chong Sui Fon, for permission first before being given water from the tap.

Because of the lack of a nutritious diet, Madam Gawidan's weight dropped from 49kg to 29kg over a 15-month period. The 40-year-old also stopped menstruating and her hair started to fall out.

For starving their maid, Chong and her husband Lim Choon Hong, both 48, were sentenced to jail for three months and three weeks respectively on Monday. Lim was also fined $10,000. The couple are also permanently banned from hiring foreign domestic workers.

Lim Choon Hong (R) breached the work pass condition of failing to provide adequate food to the maid and his wife Chong Sui Fon was found guilty of abetting Lim in wilfully starving Madam Gawidan.Photo: The Straits Times

Read also: Couple accused to starving maid

Lim breached the work pass condition of failing to provide adequate food to the maid and Chong was found guilty of abetting Lim in wilfully starving Madam Gawidan. Both had pleaded guilty to the charges last week.

During her employment from Jan 2013 to April 2014 at the couple's previous condominium home at Boulevard Residence in Cuscaden Walk, Madam Gawidan would at times ask Chong for more food, but was rejected.

At other times, she was given more pieces of plain bread, but then, it would mean she would get fewer slices at her next meal.

Chong would not allow Madam Gawidan to buy food or let her eat any other food that was available at home, while Chong's children were given different food that were greater in quantity and higher in nutritional value.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that Madam Gadiwan did not menstruate for the rest of her employment period.

"She lost strength, became physically weaker, and suffered hair loss. The couple were aware of Thelma's weight loss and physical deterioration. When MOM referred Thelma for medical assessment, she was found to have suffered from severe malnutrition," said the ministry in a statement.

The ministry also noted that the Lims did not allow her to call her employment agency to seek help and request for a change of employment. They insisted that she communicate whatever she wanted to tell the agency through them instead.

Thelma Oyasan Gawidan lost strength, became physically weaker, and suffered hair loss. Photo: The Straits Times


Read also: Couple on trial for starving maid

Zero tolerance for maid abuse

Commenting on the case, director of well-being at MOM's Foreign Manpower Management Division, Ms Jeanette Har, said: "The Ministry has zero tolerance for abuse and mistreatment of workers.

"The conduct of Lim and his wife is reprehensible and MOM will prosecute individuals who fail to safe guard the well-being of the worker. We are glad that Madam Gadiwan's physical condition has improved and she is now working for a new employer."

Following this high-profile case of ill-treatment of a maid, the ministry took the opportunity to remind employers to be responsible for their upkeep and well-being by providing adequate food and rest.

They must have a minimum of "three proper meals and a balanced diet", apart from other "basic necessities", it stressed in the statement.

"MOM takes any form of ill-treatment of foreign domestic workers seriously, and will look into all complaints and thorough investigations will be undertaken. We will not hesitate to take action against employers who compromise the safety and wellbeing of their workers," it said.

Anyone with information on suspected offences involving foreign domestic workers can write in to MOM at mom_fmmd@mom.gov.sg or call 6438 5122.

chenj@sph.com.sg

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