SINGAPORE (AP): A Singapore court jailed a woman for two weeks for negligence after she ordered her Indonesian maid onto the ledge of an eighth-floor condominium from where she fell to her death, court documents showed.
A district judge said Ngu Mei Mei, 37, who admitted one count of negligence imperiling the life of her maid, Yanti, 22, was sentenced to jail to show that the court would not excuse any thoughtless conduct by employers that placed their maids' livesin jeopardy.
"The court will not condone a disregard for the safety of domestic helpers," District Judge Thian Yee Sze wrote in her decision, delivered Tuesday.
"Many of them are very young and come from rural areas, and have never worked in urban areas and high-rise buildings. Hence, they are less aware of the potential dangers," Thian said.
"It must be remembered that to a foreign domestic helper who is often all alone in Singapore, the employer is not only her superior, whose orders she has to obey, but also her guardian and protector," the judge wrote.
Yanti, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name, fell to her death after Ngu ordered her onto the ledge of her condominium to dry laundry. Ngu could have been jailed for up to three months and fined a maximum of 250 Singapore dollars (US$153) for the offense.
Singapore's Ministry of Manpower said 18 maids fell to their deaths last year.
About 150,000 women, mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, work as maids in Singapore.
Critics, including U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, have accused the government of not having adequate labor laws to protect maids. Singapore says maids receive full legal protection, and that employers who abuse or exploit maids can face fines and jail terms of up to six months.
8 Feb 2006
From the Jakarta Post...