Employer jailed for spitting at and causing hurt to maid

Suriyati Matrawee admitted to three of six charges of using criminal force and causing hurt to the maid. She was jailed for 16 weeks.
Suriyati Matrawee admitted to three of six charges of using criminal force and causing hurt to the maid. She was jailed for 16 weeks.PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Judge notes that victim endured wide-ranging and bold abuse over prolonged period of time

An administrative clerk who spat at her maid, stepped on her foot and twisted it, and pulled off her tudung was jailed for 16 weeks yesterday.

Suriyati Matrawee, 42, who is married with three children, had admitted to three of six charges of using criminal force and causing hurt to Indonesian Intan Atikah, 28.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Rene Jeyaraj described the abuse Ms Intan had to endure. She was about two months into her employment in June 2015 when she was punched by the couple's eight- year-old daughter but Suriyati did nothing about it.

In September that year, a neighbour started noticing visible bruises on her hands and face on three to four occasions.

Suriyati also spat at Ms Intan five times on Dec 12, 2015, for not being able to finish ironing on time. Due to the commotion, a neighbour called the police. When police came, Suriyati hugged the victim and begged her to tell them that nothing had happened.

She agreed as she wanted to continue working and believed that her employer would change, but things deteriorated for the maid.

That evening, for unknown reasons, Suriyati pulled the victim towards her by her shirt in the kitchen, scolded her and stepped on her left foot and twisted it, causing bruising and swelling.

On Feb 27 last year, the victim was in a car when Suriyati was angry with her for not looking after the children. They had earlier run around while in the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

Suriyati pulled at Ms Intan's tudung (headscarf) until it came off, then stepped on it.

Investigation also showed that Suriyati's daughter had helped to pull off the tudung, and had hit the maid's back during the incident.

The victim was distressed. She felt insulted and offended by her employer's actions.

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

The last incident happened on March 6 last year. Suriyati called the maid a sex worker as she was upset with her for waking up 10 minutes late.

Ms Intan decided to leave and ran out to the staircase. She shouted when Suriyati tried to stop her.

A neighbour saw the maid holding onto the staircase railing, while Suriyati and a man tried to pull her away. They eventually managed to prise her hands from the railing and take her back to the flat in Clementi.

Police were alerted and they took Ms Intan away.

In passing sentence, District Judge Mathew Joseph chided Suriyati for her "foolish and deplorable" actions. He said her offending conduct spanned a prolonged period of time; the nature of abuse was bold and wide-ranging.

Spitting in someone's face is humiliating, degrading and an "ultimate insult", he said.

She could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to $7,500 for causing hurt, and for using criminal force, up to three months' jail and/or fined up to $1,500 per charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline 'Employer jailed for spitting at and causing hurt to maid'. Print Edition | Subscribe