A diplomat from Indonesia and a local rights group urged Malaysian authorities Monday to conduct a thorough investigation into the death of an Indonesian maid who suffered injuries and, according to a neighbor, was forced to sleep outside with the family’s dog.
Police in the northern Malaysian state of Penang, where maid Adelina Lisao worked, have arrested three suspects – her 36-year-old female employer and the employer’s 39-year-old brother. The siblings’ 60-year-old mother was arrested on Monday, according to Nik Ros Azhan Nik Abd Hamid, the district police chief.
“We will apply for a remand order in court tomorrow and we have taken statements from several witnesses, including the neighbor,” he told reporters. “We are investigating the case under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder.”
Police and other officials rescued Lisao, 26, on Saturday after authorities received a complaint from a neighbor, according to local councilman Joshua Woo Sze Zeng.
Woo Sze Zeng said he found the maid sleeping in the house’s carport. She suffered wounds to her face, hands and legs and was taken to a hospital but died on Sunday.
Lisao was made to sleep on a mat where a Rottweiler was tied up nearby for almost two months, Woo Sze Zeng said, citing an account given to him by a neighbor.
Neni Kurniati, a consul at the Indonesian Consulate in Penang, demanded a quick resolution, urging Malaysian authorities to immediately find the culprit behind the Indonesian woman’s death.
“We will leave it to the police to conduct a thorough probe into the matter,” she told reporters Monday at the hospital where the maid had been taken. She said there were no complaints from Lisao about being abused by her employer.
Lisao had been working for the same household since December 2014, Kurniati said, adding the consulate was trying to locate her family.
The consulate would make arrangements for her body to be flown back to Indonesia after the post-mortem and investigations are over, Kurniati said.
Police said Lisao had bruises on her head and face. She suffered “multi-organ failure secondary to anemia,” which means her organs failed to work because of a lack of blood in her body, doctors said.
“There is a high possibility that the victim was neglected,” Dr. Amir Saad Abdul Rahim said in a brief report.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has about 32 million residents, including almost 1.8 million legally registered foreign workers and about 2 million undocumented immigrants who work in sectors ranging from agriculture to construction.
Tenaganita, a local migrant and refugee rights group, said Lisao’s death mirrored the Malaysian society's utter disregard for the dignity and rights of migrant domestic workers.
Glorene Das, Tenaganita’s executive director, said there have been many examples of verbal and physical abuse committed by Malaysian employers on domestic workers.
“This suggests that many employers consider their domestic workers as sub-human entities who can be abused and ill-treated at will,” she said in a statement.
Such ill-treatment was prevalent, she added, because of the lack of legal protection accorded to foreign domestic workers in Malaysia.
“The Employment Act 1995, which purportedly protects the rights of domestic workers, does not even recognize them as workers, but, instead, defines them as servants,” Das said.
“Their place of work is seen as a private domain, which is not subject to public scrutiny to ensure that the labor and human rights of domestic workers are protected,” she said. “As a result, many employers feel that they can subject their domestic workers to sustained abuse and torture with impunity, which sometimes end tragically as in the case of Adelina, and many others before her.”
Victims who free themselves from abusive and exploitative work by running away are inadvertently punished by authorities under the Immigration Act because they become undocumented, she pointed out.
“The government should live up to its responsibility to protect this very vulnerable sector of our labor force, which has contributed so significantly to the well-being of millions of Malaysians,” she said. “We do not want to see another death of an innocent domestic worker in Malaysia.”