Monday, December 12, 2005

The beautiful doctor and the foreign maid

The beautiful doctor and the foreign maid

I don’t have a foreign maid and am thinking of getting one in the future, but if I ever do, it will be with careful apprehension not to become like this slave driver or this inhumane maid abuser who victimized poor Nirmala Bonat till she looked like till she was battered and burned (follow the previous link for the disturbing details).

Now this case is very extreme, and the evil of it is obvious to me, but what about the normal questions, like will I treat her as a human with rights? Can I give her time out to rest, after all, humans need rest? Will I deny her friendship and contact with her people just because I run the risk of her running away and loosing my deposit and installments, not realizing that she has become more of an asset to me than a complex human being?

Do you see the complications? Can we balance our self interest and being Christian to a human being at the same time? I wish pastors and churches would preach sermons on how to be a Christian foreign maid employer, and the church would legislate in its laws, discipline for maid abusers. MCA attempts to answer these questions here, and they even ask the question that I think we modern city people don’t want to face, “is this a form of modern slavery?”, and they document one of the practices by these cruel maid agencies;

“Modern day slavery?

It has become standard practice in most maid agencies that the salaries of foreign servants will not be paid for between 4 ~ 6 months as reimbursement for the latter’s advance airfares and medical reports initially borne by the agency.

While some sympathetic families may give a token sum to their maid at the end of the month, this act is discouraged by the agencies. The reason given is that it will “pamper” or “soften” the maid.

Newly arrived maids have also reported that before being employed in homes, they are given no rest in that, they are made to work continuously, cleaning away the agency’s premises or agent’s house.

Similarly, if the maid is sacked after the three or six month trial-and-replacement period, all her savings or monies earned since would be confiscated by the agents as compensation to the agency. She may even be sent back to her home country without a single sen at all. Returned maids are also allegedly beaten and/or slapped in the face for being given back to their agency.”

Now amidst the darkness that looms over this issue, the light (of Christ in general or special grace I don’t know) of kindness and goodness shines – and this man, Dr. Raymond Yuen is worthy of our honor and highest esteem. The Star newspaper carried this beautiful story of his love and kindness to his Sri Lankan maid and her family, and he has display not just a basic kindness and respect for his maid as a human being, but an interest in her and her well being, in a Christ-like fashion. I cannot help but wonder if he is a Christian, though the article tells us that his maid is. So here is a tribute to the good doctor, who has set the standard for us all in being an employer.

And I know there will be even Christians who would read this story of this good doctor and scoff “but he is spoiling her, and she will repay his goodness with abuse” – take heed if you react this way, are you hiding self interest and defiance to Christ’s commandment to love your neighbour as yourself behind that excuse! Wouldn’t you want to have friends with your own people in a strange land, to have time out in a day, and on weekends, and to be able to be friendly with the people you have to live with everyday? Is that too much to ask? If it is, do the kingdom of God a favour and don’t get a maid, you aren’t mature enough to handle it.


The Hedonese said...

There was a big maid-battering case in Ipoh once... the maid was so tortured, she ran away from home and reported to police...

Came out in the papers and to my shock... the couple who did it lived a few doors away from my home, and attending a church near mine too!

They quickly moved house after the case went into court but not b4 the whole neighborhood knows abt the scandalous episode

Benjamin Ho said...

things are not exactly the rosiest in sunshine Singapore. I'll hate to say this, but Singapore's treatment of maids have been subjected to bad press and criticism lately. As I've said in my blog posting, "every society must be judged by how it treats its fellow citizens" (whether they are locals or foreigners)... I reckon we won't be seeing the last of this problem.

Mejlina Tjoa said...

It's gruesome and reminds me of the many cases of maid abuse I knew of ever since I came to Singapore 11 years ago. The pictures of abuses especially rise a great sense of indignation and I just get extremely upset whenever I see this.

It is good to know that the public reaction is strong. Compared to ages ago when slaves were seen as a commodity and society felt generally okay about it, it's a great improvement.

Humans get extreme either way, though. Personally, I know of a few cases (not as serious and extreme as this case of physical abuse) where it's the employers that are wrongly treated, often times because they do not know how to exhibit their roles properly.

First is my Christian friend who is so nice and so trusting. Her maid acted like an angel at home but sneaked out often, cheated her money and did a lot of things she should not when she was not around. Finally she left without a word and still didn't feel guilty about it. She wrote a letter back to ask for something more! My friend felt a bit mistreated.

Another one is my aunt who is really rich and employ a few maids who become real spoilt breds. They can vent their mood if they have a moody day and they are generally lazy. They work flippantly based on mood and don't have a proper sense of employer-employee relationship.

One more happened at my home in Indonesia where this newly-employed maid kept stealing things, from food to clothes to money, threw tantrum, and threatened to run away so my grandma had to keep an eye on her. One fine morning, she stole my mom's money while my sis was sleeping and then she disappeared and never returned.

Phew... humans.