Jail and fine for couple who starved maid, causing her to lose 20kg

Chong Sui Foon (front) and Lim Choon Hong, arriving at the State Courts on Monday (March 27).
Chong Sui Foon (front) and Lim Choon Hong, arriving at the State Courts on Monday (March 27). ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean couple who pleaded guilty to starving their maid were jailed and fined on Monday (March 27).

Freelance trader Lim Choon Hong, 47, was sentenced to three weeks' jail and fined $10,000. His wife Chong Sui Foon, also 47, was jailed for three months.

The prosection, which is asking for the maximum sentence of one year’s jail for both, is appealing.  The couple are on bail of $3,000 each pending the appeal.

Lim was convicted in March last year of a charge of contravening the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012 which requires employers to pay and provide adequate food and medical treatment for their domestic helpers. Chong was found guilty of abetting Lim in committing the offence.

The couple provided Filipino domestic worker Thelma Oyasan Gawidan with only two meals a day at their previous condominium home at Boulevard Residence in Cuscaden Walk, causing the 40-year-old's weight to drop from 49kg to 29kg over a 15-month period.

The first meal, which was usually provided at around 1am to 2am, comprised two to three slices of plain white bread and one to two packets of instant noodles. Occasionally, Chong would mix small portions of vegetables and meat with the instant noodles.

 

The second meal, which was provided in the late morning or early afternoon, would consist of five to six slices of plain white bread.

Lim bought Madam Gawidan's food. Lim, Chong and their children ate different food, which was greater in quantity and higher in nutritional value than what their helper was rationed with.

Madam Gawidan also had to ask for permission before drinking water, and Chong would give her water from the tap. Madam Gawidan stopped menstruating after February 2013 and her hair started falling out a few months later.

Chong also forbade Madam Gawidan from using the toilets in their home. The domestic worker had to use the common toilet in the condominium. Madam Gawidan was also allowed to shower once or twice a week and Chong would stand inside the toilet while she showered.

During the trial, Lim said his wife had previously suffered from anorexia nervosa - an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat - and from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Due to her preferences, he said their lifestyle "revolved around food and cleanliness".

In a statement on Monday night, Mr Shamsul Kamar, executive director of the Centre for Domestic Employees, said the centre is deeply saddened by this incident and urged foreign domestic workers who feel that they are being mistreated to seek immediate help.