Friday, May 21, 2004

"It is painful for Malaysians to see another human being tortured like this"

Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK

Nirmala Bonat
Nirmala Bonat said the abuse began when she broke a mug
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has said he is "shocked and outraged" at the abuse inflicted on an Indonesian maid by her employer's wife.

"It is painful for Malaysians to see another human being tortured like this," he told the New Straits Times.

Nirmala Bonat claims she was abused every day for the last five months, including being burnt with an iron.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail described her abuser as a "monster", who could be jailed for up to 80 years.

The government offered Nirmala Bonat an official apology, with Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar saying: "We apologise and wish to extend our sympathies to her and family, who had placed high hopes on her earning an income, but she was abused instead."

Prime Minister Badawi promised that perpetrators of such "heinous crimes" would not be allowed to get away with it.

Maid's plight

The abuse first came to light on Thursday, when Malaysian newspapers were full of front-page photos of Nirmala Bonat's horrific bruises and scars, in what police claim is the country's worst case of maid abuse.

She [the employer's wife] then threw boiling water on me... She took the iron out of my hand and pressed it against my breasts
Nirmala Bonat
The maid told a harrowing story of how she was repeatedly burnt with an iron and scalded with boiling water by her Malaysian employer's wife.

Nirmala Bonat's plight was exposed after a guard at one of Kuala Lumpur's wealthy condominiums saw her crying, and spotted the horrific bruises on her face.

The guard immediately called police, who were shocked to find that the maid's whole body - including her breasts and back - were severely burnt.

Nirmala Bonat said the abuse began when she accidentally broke a mug about five months ago.

"She [the employer's wife] then threw boiling water on me," the maid told reporters.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi
Mr Abdullah vowed to punish such 'heinous crimes'
"One day she got upset while I was ironing. She said the clothes had not been properly ironed and slapped me. She took the iron out of my hand and pressed it against my breasts.

"When I go back, what am I going to tell my parents when they see all the scars?" the maid said.

Nirmala Bonat said she came to Malaysia last September, hoping to help support her parents, who are Indonesian farmers.

More than 200,000 foreigners are believed to work in Malaysian homes.

The country is the second largest destination for Indonesian maids after Saudi Arabia.

Many middle class Malaysian families rely on domestic staff, who are typically paid less than $100 a month.