On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Of good maids and those from hell

In both cases, they were not angry that their maids had
quit on them as they had every right to do so but the lies that were thrown at
them in their attempt to cover up their weaknesses.

Often, we read of maids who claimed they had been
mistreated by employers but let's not forget that bosses, too, have their share
of pain. The only difference is that there are no non-government organisations
to take their problems to the press.

But there has been an increase in the number of
grievances against maids, especially those from Indonesia,
over the past few months, supposedly because their quality has dropped.

It's a case of Malaysian employers getting monkeys
because we are paying peanuts, according to the Malaysian National Association
of Private Employment Agencies.

Last week, its president Datuk Baharom Abdul Ghani said
better-trained maids were going to places such as Hong
Kong, Taiwan
and Singapore
because they were better paid there with wages of between RM700 and RM1,000.

he said, had become the last option for maids because of the low monthly wages,
adding that the RM350 to RM380 that was currently paid by Malaysian employers
worked out to about RM10 a day.

These maids, he added, also complained that Malaysians
had bigger houses to be looked after for small money while in places like Hong
Kong, Taiwan
and Singapore,
they cleaned small houses for bigger money.

While there are valid points to these arguments, maids
must also realise that they encounter less cultural shock working in Malaysia
and that most employers here are likely to be religiously and culturally
sensitive to their needs, unlike those in other foreign places.

These maids also have less language and cultural barriers
to contend with in Malaysia.
The travelling distance between Indonesia
and Malaysia is
also much shorter in comparison to the other countries.

But the number of high-profile cases involving maids has
made many Malaysian employers take a second look at whether having a stranger
in the house is a good option after all.

Last week, a 22-year-old Indonesian maid was sentenced to
death for killing her employer after a spat over burnt curry. The High Court
threw out her defence of insanity, saying she knew exactly what she was doing
three years ago when she attacked Soon Lay Chuan with a mortar pestle.

On Thursday, it was reported that a three-month-old baby
nearly suffocated from the mittens stuffed in her mouth and bedclothes piled on
her, allegedly by a maid. A medical report revealed that a high amount of
anti-seizure drug was found in the baby's stomach.

On Oct 26, there was a letter from a reader in a
newspaper about a psycho who appeared caring and hardworking to the working
couple until they installed a video camera in the house.

They saw, to their shock, her kissing their baby so many
times on the mouth and putting her finger into the two-month-old baby's mouth.
She was apparently giving her saliva in the mistaken belief that the baby would
obey her.

When the couple confronted her, the maid denied
everything but confessed when she was shown the video recording.

As my colleagues discussed these incidents on the
editorial floor, a colleague revealed a theft involving a maid who was about to
leave for home in Indonesia.

Small sums of money and branded clothes had been missing
from the house but nobody thought that their well-behaved and seemingly
responsible maid could be the culprit. They thought it was due to their

But on the day of her departure, the maid agency advised
the family members to do a body search. There was much reluctance, with some
members debating about her human rights and honour.

In the end, the agency's representative did the dirty
job, so to speak, and found her wearing five expensive panties belonging to a
family member and stuffed inside her sanitary pad were gold items such as rings
and gold rings.

My brother decided to stop engaging maids recently when
his two children left for overseas for their tertiary education. Although he
has a huge house, he has decided to do the cleaning himself.

I have heard countless agony stories from him about
maids, including one strange maid who only ate instant noodles and nothing
else. Another employer, it was reported recently, brought her case to the small
claims court when she found that her maid refused to take baths.

But there are, of course, heart-warming cases about good
maids. One colleague is paying her Filipino maid of 11 years more than RM1,000
a month because she has been good.

Another friend even took her maid on family holidays
overseas and even lets her drive the Mercedes Benz because they trust her. She
is like a family member and her employers only have good things to say about

I have taken an interest in this issue because I am
contemplating engaging a maid but I am taking my time to listen to the merits
and demerits of becoming a household employer.