Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is this sufficient JUSTICE for Nirmala Bonat?

Criminal Court should have ordered compensation for the victim, Nirmala Bonat?

Migrant Domestic Worker Nirmala Bonat was allegedly abused and assaulted by her employer in 2004 - and finally in November 2008, this criminal trial comes to an end, and '...Homemaker Yim Pek Ha was found guilty today of grievously hurting domestic helper Nirmala Bonat, and was sentenced to 18 years in jail...'
It made headlines in Malaysia, with photographs of her severe injuries splashed on the front pages of newspapers when her plight was revealed in 2004.- Malaysiakini, 27/11/2008 - Maid abuse: Housewife gets 18 years
But the Nirmala Bonat's case is the exception .... not the norm. Many a time when the migrant worker is the victim, the perpetrators get off scott free because most will not be able to linger around in Malaysia waiting for the trial (or have the capacity to travel up and down for the trial).

Remember, in Malaysia, the victimized migrant worker, is not given the opportunity to work and earn an income while they wait for their cases to be heard...

Happily after the Nirmala Bonat's expose....the Malaysian authorities came out and asked other victims of abuse to step forward and complain about abusive employers...(But note that you will not be able to work with another employer until the case is over...and this is SO WRONG...)

Migrant Worker victims cannot be expected to just 'hang around' without new employment with a new employer...while the criminal case proceeds.

Could some Member of Parliament ask the question as to how many cases involving migrant worker victims have been completed? How many cases do the prosecution pay for foreign victims to come back to Malaysia to give evidence in the trial? How much money has been expended bringing these foreign victims back to Malaysia for the trial to give evidence?

Homemaker Yim Pek Ha was found guilty today of grievously hurting domestic helper Nirmala Bonat, and was sentenced to 18 years in jail.


Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court judge Akhtar Tahir found Yim, 40, guilty on three counts of hurting Nirmala. An additional count of causing hurt was however not proven.

He sentenced her to 18 years' jail on each of the three charges but ordered the sentences to run concurrently.

abused indonesian maid nirmala bonat 170108 yim pek haAkhtar said Yim (left) had committed sadistic behaviour that cannot be tolerated in a civil society.

She had pressed a hot iron on Bonat's back and breasts, and pouring hot water on her legs as punishment for not doing the chores properly.

Yim was cleared of a fourth charge of breaking the maid's nose.

"I agree with the prosecution that you have not shown remorse and have been in a state of denial throughout the case," he said, noting that the court has to give weight to the public interest in passing sentence.

In his judgment, Akhtar said there were suggestions the injury could have been the result of Nirmala suffering bouts of gila kambing (epilepsy).

abused indonesian maid nirmala bonat then and now 170108"Fermima Anunut, the employer of Nirmala's cousin, had testified that she (Nirmala) has the condition. However, Nirmala's mother, when testifying, had denied this.

“The electrocardiogram test and examinations performed by doctors also proved that Nirmala does not suffer from the ailment.”

Akhtar said it was illogical for Nirmala to have suffered a seizure while in her room, and that she had injured herself.

"Furthermore, the court cannot accept how Fermima would have known that Nirmala had suffered seizures when Fermima herself was in Ipoh, working," he said.

Akhtar hence ruled that the injuries suffered by Nirmala were not self-inflicted.

The judge said evidence also showed that Yim was capable of such actions as she had testified to having slapped Nirmala in the past.

"From the statements of the accused while on the witness stand, she blamed the maid for this and that. I could still see Yim's underlying anger even after three years. So it would not surprise me if she had caused the injuries. She also admitted that she had slapped the victim.

"Nirmala Bonat has been consistent in her statements that her lady boss injured her, in her testimony in court and from the time she was found by a security guard.

“The security guard had also given consistent evidence to say the female boss had done this to her. My finding of fact is that the injuries were not self-inflicted."

abused indonesian maid nirmala bonat 210504Akhtar said the court was also satisfied with the prosecution's decision to classify the case under ‘grievous hurt’, as Nirmala testified that she had not taken a bath for 20 days after suffering injuries.

"If a person cannot take a bath for 20 days, it shows the extent of pain from the injuries. Hence, the prosecution was right in classifying the cases as grievous hurt," he said.

In finding that the prosecution has proven its case beyond reasonable doubt, the judge pronounced Yim’s guilt.

Yim was seen crying and later hugging her husband Hii Ik Ting, 42, her children and relatives.

A former air stewardess and a mother of four, Yim was sentenced after Akhtar heard mitigation from her lawyers.

Counsel Jagjit Singh who was assisted by counsel Akbardin Abdul Kader told the court he could not submit that his client was remorseful.

“A staunch Christian, she still believes she is innocent and I too feel the same way,” the lawyer said.

‘Nightmarish experience’

DPP Raja Rozela Raja Toran, in pressing for a deterrent sentence, said Nirmala had come to Malaysia to find a decent job but had returned emotionally scarred to Indonesia.

"Although the physical injuries may have healed, she will always be haunted by her nightmarish experience while working here," she said.

Raja Rozela said the injuries inflicted on Nirmala were done not using ordinary items, but a hot iron and hot water, while the injuries were to her whole body.

"It is unbelievable that one woman would do that to another who is helpless. The extent of Nirmala's injuries showed the inhumane nature of the perpetrator," the DPP said.

She also applied under section 426 of the Criminal Procedure Code for an order to compel Yim to pay compensation.

Jagjit objected, pointing out that Nirmala had received donations in cash and kind from Malaysia.

"She is already a billionaire in Indonesia. Furthermore, my client is also facing a civil suit filed by Nirmala and the Indonesian government.”

Akhtar said he did not want to hear a defence application for stay of execution today, after Raja Rozela raised an objection.

"You have to file a written notice of appeal and after you do that, I will set a date for the hearing," said the judge.

Akbardin then said he wanted to submit an oral application, as he intended to file a written application later today.

However, the judge would not allow it, assuring, “I will set the earliest date available".

Legal history

Outside the court, Jagjit expressed unhappiness with the sentence, saying he felt it to be too harsh.

"This sentence is more severe than for culpable homicide. However, we have to respect the court's decision," he said, adding a notice of appeal would be filed today.

The verdict comes after 110 days of proceedings held over four and a half years.

Yim was charged with four counts of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to the Indonesian, then 19, with a hot iron twice on a day in January and in April 2004, with using hot water on a day in March 2004, and using a metal cup at about 3pm on May 17, 2004.

The offences were committed at Yim's upmarket Villa Putera condominium in Jalan Tun Ismail in Kuala Lumpur.

The first three offences were under section 326 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years' jail, and a fine or whipping. The fourth charge under section 325 carries a maximum seven years jail and fine.

This case created legal history when then DPP Stanley Augustin said this was the first time that an individual had been charged with three counts under Section 326 of the Penal Code for offences against the same victim.

Nirmala's case created an uproar among Malaysians and Indonesians, after a security guard discovered her plight.

It made headlines in Malaysia, with photographs of her severe injuries splashed on the front pages of newspapers when her plight was revealed in 2004.

Bonat said that Yim abused her every day of the five months she spent in the family's home, until her breasts and back were covered with burns, and her face was swollen by regular beatings.

In Indonesia, it sparked protests in front of the Malaysian embassy with demonstrators calling for better treatment for domestic helpers.- Malaysiakini, 27/11/2008 - Maid abuse: Housewife gets 18 years

It is good that the perpetrator of the crime is punished - but what about compensation for the victim of the crime. Criminal Courts must start making awards of compensation. There seem to have been an application here...but it seems that there was no award of compensation.

This means that now Nirmala Bonat will have to file a civil suit to get compensation and damages...and she still can do that as 6 years have not yet lapsed.

When migrant workers come forward and report a crime or a wrong committed by their employer or their family against him/her, that migrant worker should be able to go to some SHELTER to stay. Surely, she cannot go back to her employer...This SHELTER must be provided by the government.

Until the case is over , be it a criminal case as in the case of Nirmala Bonat or a Labour/Industrial case, the Migrant Worker should be permitted to remain in Malaysia - and also to be able to work and earn a living as he/she waits for her case to be completed.

When it comes to Migrant Workers - cases have to be expedited, to be completed not later than 3 - 6 months.

Updated Note

Compensation - the court should order the perpetrator to pay the victim compensation.

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