Employer jailed 15 months and ordered to pay $4,900 to foreign domestic worker

Suganthi Jayaraman, who is charged with maid abuse, is photographed leaving the State Courts on May 22, 2015.
Suganthi Jayaraman, who is charged with maid abuse, is photographed leaving the State Courts on May 22, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - A woman who burned her domestic worker with a heated metal ladle and hit her with a metal grinding tool was jailed for 15 months on Thursday.

Suganthi Jayaraman, 34, who pleaded guilty to three charges of maid abuse, was ordered to pay $4,900 compensation to Ms Naw Mu Den Paw, a 24-year-old Myanmar national.

The court heard she scalded the maid in the kitchen of her flat in Woodlands on Sept 28, 2013 as she was not happy with the curry the helper had cooked. She heated an 18cm-long ladle until it was red-hot before sweeping it over the woman's left calf and back.

No medication was given to Ms Paw, who was told to wear long pants to cover up the injury.

Earlier on Sept 20, she had been unhappy with the helper for not frying vadais, an Indian snack, quickly enough. Suganthi grabbed a metal pestle and hit her on the back of her head as well as near her right eyebrow.

Ms Paw bled heavily but was not given medical attention. Instead, she was told to finish frying the vadais and deliver them to the mini-mart run by Suganthi and her husband to be sold.

On Sept 30, she punched the maid in the left eye after the victim, who had finished work at 4am, was not up by 6.30 am to takeSuganthi's daughter to school.

Ms Paw ran away on Oct 3.

Three other similar charges and a fourth charge of using criminal force were considered during Suganthi's sentencing.

District Judge Christopher Goh said her acts were particularly aggravating, and the use of a metal pestle and a heated metal ladle to hurt the domestic worker was "cruel and inhumane''.

He noted that the abuses had occurred over a period of about three months until the victim ran away.

Judge Goh agreed with the prosecution that Suganthi's actions were deliberate, malicious and also showed a profound lack of basic respect for the domestic maid's welfare and dignity.'

"In my view, you seem to treat the victim as a chattel rather than a fellow human being," he said.

"There is no legitimate reason why an employer should inflict any injury on any of their employees, let alone workers who are at a disadvantage because they are working in a foreign country."

The judge said it would be a sad reflection of society to let the abuse go on.

Suganthi could have been jailed for up to 101/2 years and fined for causing hurt with a heated substance. The punishment for the other two offences is a jail term of up to three years and/or a fine of up to $7,500 each.