Employer jailed 16 weeks for abusing and spitting at maid

SINGAPORE - An administrative clerk was jailed on Wednesday (June 28) for abusing her maid after repeatedly spitting at her, and stepping and twisting her foot.

Suriyati Matrawee, 42, also admitted to pulling off her maid's tudung, or headscarf, and stepping on it.

The mother of three was jailed for 16 weeks after admitting to two charges of using criminal force and one of causing hurt to Indonesian domestic worker Intan Atikah, 28.

Three other charges of using criminal force on the victim were considered during her sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Joshua Rene Jeyaraj told the court earlier that Ms Intan, who started worked at the Clementi household from April 2015, was subject to frequent abuse and humiliation by members of Suriyati's household throughout her year-long employment.

Around June 2015, Ms Intan was punched by the couple's eight-year-old daughter but Suriyati did nothing about it. A neighbour saw Ms Intan with bruises on her hands and her face a few times in September that year.

Suriyati Matrawee was jailed on Wednesday for abusing her maid after repeatedly spitting at her, and stepping and twisting her foot. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Suriyati even withheld Ms Intan's salary on two occasions, in 2015 and early last year, but has since paid all salary owed to the victim.

Investigation showed that on March 6 last year, Suriyati called the maid a sex worker as she was upset with her for waking up 10 minutes later.

Ms Intan had been tending to her employer's sick mother throughout the night. She decided to leave, and ran to the staircase. Suriyati tried to stop her and the victim started shouting.

On seeing the commotion and hearing the victim's loud cries in the flat, a neighbour called the police, who came and took her away.

DPP Jeyaraj said that on Dec 12, 2015, Suriyati spat at Ms Intan five times for not ironing all the clothes on time.

Suriyati's husband told her not to treat the maid that way but Suriyati ignored him and continued to spit at the victim.

Due to the commotion, a neighbour called the police.

When the police arrived, Suriyati hugged the victim and begged her to tell the police that nothing had happened.

The victim complied as she believed that her employer would change, but the situation got worse.

That evening, Suriyati approached the victim in the kitchen and pulled the victim towards her by her shirt. For unknown reasons, she scolded Ms Intan and then used her right foot to step on her left foot and twist it, causing bruising and swelling.

On Feb 27 last year, the victim was returning to the flat with the family after a visit to the cemetery when Suriyati accused the victim of not looking after the children, who had been running around in the cemetery earlier.

She pulled off the victim's tudung and stepped on it on the car floor. She later threw it away. The victim was distressed during the incident and felt insulted and offended by her employer's actions.

In passing sentence, District Judge Mathew Joseph chided her for her "foolish and deplorable'' actions. He said her offending conduct was over a prolonged period of time, and the nature of abuse was bold and wide-ranging. Spitting in someone's face is humiliating, degrading and an "ultimate insult'', he said.

Suriyati could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to $7,500 for causing hurt to a domestic worker. The maximum punishment for using criminal force is three months' jail and a $1,500 fine per charge.

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