Maid abuse case: Employers' past maid also given bread and instant noodles, says witness

Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon allegedly put their previous Indonesian maid on the same diet.
Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon allegedly put their previous Indonesian maid on the same diet. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A couple, who allegedly underfed their Filipino maid, regularly giving her only bread and instant noodles to eat, put their previous Indonesian maid on the same diet, a court was told on Wednesday (Dec 16).

The Indonesian maid was sent back to the maid agency after a short while, and she complained to its owner, Mr Toh Ah Choon, about the food.

Mr Toh was testifying on the third day of the couple's trial on Wednesday (Dec 16).

Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon, both 47, face charges of failing to provide Madam Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, 40, with adequate food and so contravening the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012.

Madam Gawidan had testified that she was regularly given only instant noodles and plain bread twice a day while working for Lim and Chong from from January 2013 to April last year.

Also taking the stand as a prosecution witness in the morning was Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's chief dietician Gladys Wong Hooi Chuan.

She testified that the "drastic" 40 per cent drop in Madam Gawidan's weight and the decrease in her body mass index - from 24.3 to 14.4 - could only have been caused by "inadequate food available for her to eat".

There was no evidence that the domestic helper was unable or unwilling to eat, the dietician said.

Ms Wong also noted that Madam Gawidan gained back weight quickly after she sought refuge at a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, after she fled from her employers' condominium.

Based on what Madam Gawidan said she regularly ate - two packets of instant noodles and three slices of bread for one meal, with a slice of tomato or cucumber, and six slices of bread for a second meal - Ms Wong said the helper's food was not only inadequate, but also "just absolutely not (a) balanced diet".

Given her age, height, weight and amount of physical activity, she needed food intake amounting to about 1,700 calories. But she was consuming only about half of the calories she required.

The severe lack of iron and zinc in her diet would also explain why her menses stopped and her hair fell out.

"Looking at the whole profile of her diet, (when) Singapore is a food paradise... it is quite sad," Ms Wong said.

 
 

Madam Gawidan's diet would cause her to progressively lose nutrients, and become malnourished. "This should not happen in Singapore which is a developed country," Ms Wong added.

While she was all "skin and bone", it would still have taken some time before she would have become delirious.

Given that she was lucid, it would have been "torturous" for her to realise that she could not do anything about her situation, Ms Wong said.

While Lim and Chong were allowed to make an application for a "no case to answer" and ask for an acquittal before they were called to give their defence, their lawyer Tan Hee Liang told District Judge Low Wee Ping that they would not do so.

"My client is very eager to have his side of the story (told)," Mr Tan said.

The lawyer said Lim was "very distressed by the whole affair", and told the court that Lim hopes the press would cover his side of the story.

Lim, a businessman, now lives at the D'Leedon condominium at Leedon Heights.

Madam Gawidan, meanwhile, works for another employer.

The trial is continuing on Wednesday afternoon with Lim on the stand.

If convicted, Lim and Chong each face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.