Monday, September 03, 2007





MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is shocked to hear that 23-year old Nirmala Bonat is still languishing in Malaysia, waiting for the criminal case against her former employer, who was charged with causing grievous hurt to Bonat, to be over. While the accused is out on bail, Bonat, the victim, has been confined to a shelter at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur since 2004, not being allowed to leave the embassy for security reasons.

In May 2004, neighbours found 19-year-old Indonesian domestic worker, Nirmala Bonat, in her employer's apartment suffering from severe burns to her chest, back and legs, she alleged that she had been branded with an iron and scalded with boiling water by her employer. The skin over most of her body was knotted with scars, welts and burns, the alleged product of five months of abuse by her employer. The case provoked public outrage in Malaysia and her employer was charged in court.

Hearings have been repeatedly postponed. An official at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Tatang B. Razak said. "It seems that the process has been deliberately slowed down by trial delays and the replacement of judges," (Jakarta Post (30/8/2007), “Malaysian legal process 'unfair to maids”).

When it comes to criminal cases where the victims are foreigners, including migrant workers and even tourists, priority must be given to ensure that there is a speedy trial to ensure that justice is done. Alternatively there must be some procedure (with the requisite funds) for the prosecution to be able to bring back victims (and/or witnesses) to testify in criminal trials.

In the case of Indonesian migrant workers, their embassy in Kuala Lumpur now provides shelter to victims of abuse and maltreatment while they await trial of their perpetrators, but with regard to other foreign nationals, there seem to be no similar mechanisms for shelter and these victims (and/or other important witnesses) end up leaving Malaysia and going back home – and without the evidence of these witnesses during the trial, the guilty may most likely get acquitted.

MADPET is of the opinion that shelter and protection of witnesses in a criminal trial is primarily the duty and responsibility of the prosecution and the State – not embassies and/or some other bodies.

MADPET also calls for a change in the current Malaysian position, that do not allow migrant workers who have made criminal complaints and reports against their employer to work with another employer until after these cases relating to their employer be tried and disposed off. This policy and practice is not only unjust for to the migrant would, in fact, deter future victims of abuse and crimes from coming forward and complaining.

MADPET is also concerned of the alleged discrimination against migrant workers that was alleged in the same Jakarta Post report, whereby it was reported that despite the fact that the Indonesian embassy has filed many complaints with the Malaysian authorities, no Malaysian citizen had ever been punished for abusing an Indonesian maid, and that the Nirmala's abuse is the only case that have reached the Malaysian court.

The Indonesian embassy official was also reported saying “This shows how slow the process is if it relates to abuse of Indonesians. But if an Indonesian is alleged with a violation or a crime, the legal process takes only days to arrive at the court," As an example of this unfairness, he cited the case of Indonesian maid Rini Setyowati that was brought to trial just a week after she was accused of stealing her employer's jewelry illustrated the unfairness.

Article 8 of our Malaysian Federal Constitution guarantees that “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”, whereby it is most clear by the usage of the word “persons” and not “citizens”, this is a guarantee accorded to everyone in Malaysia irrespective of whether they are migrant workers or foreigners.

As such, MADPET calls for an immediate investigation of the alleged discrimination that is said to be happening in our criminal justice system.

MADPET calls for an immediate investigation into the reasons for the delays in the Nirmala Bonat’s abuse case, and ask that this case be brought to a speedy conclusion so that Nirmala Bonat can go back home and move on with her life.

Charles Hector

N Surendran

for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

3rd September 2007

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