In a strange, almost suspicious turn of events, Anita Damu, also known as Shazana Abdullah in court documents, suddenly took ill in the middle of a court hearing where she was being sentenced for repeatedly abusing her domestic helper, who had permanent scars from the abusive encounters.
She was in court for charges of abuse against her Indonesian helper, Siti Khodijah. According to Khodijah, Damu mistreated and abused her on a regular basis for more than a year, depriving her of proper food and rest. Khodijah also told the court that Damu used a bamboo pole, slippers, an iron and a pair of pliers to hurt her.
Halfway through her hearing on Wednesday, October 10, 50-year-old Damu, who was in the dock, suddenly told District Judge Terence Tay that she felt dizzy and unwell. This happened while her lawyer was arguing for a fine penalty for her as opposed to prison time of four years, which prosecutors had earlier proposed as punishment.
Judge Tay stopped the proceedings so that Damu’s family members could check on her. They pronounced her ill and asked for an ambulance to take her to the hospital.
Singaporean Damu is currently out on bail despite having pleaded guilty to five charges of helper abuse during a previous hearing on September 22.
Khodijah started working for Damu’s family in October 2013. According to 29-year-old Khodijah, Damu required her to work from 4AM to 11PM every single day, and she was given zero days off for rest or personal time.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says that Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) should be given one rest day a week by employers in accordance with looking after their health and well-being. If the FDW chooses to work on a rest day, the employer is bound by law to compensate the FDW with one day’s salary or with a replacement rest day on another day.
Damu also dictated how much food Khodijah was allowed to eat, which was two meals a day – breakfast and dinner in controlled amounts specified by Damu.
However, after January 2014, Khodijah said that Damu only gave her lunch and dinner twice or thrice a week, so Khodijah had to subsist on meager breakfasts to take her through her 4AM to 11PM workday.
It was also during this time period that Damu started physically abusing Khodijah. According to Khodijah, Damu started to slap her face and body every single time she made a mistake, which was of course determined by Damu.
Damu would later hit Khodijah on the head with a bamboo pole and use pliers to pinch Khodijah in different parts of her body.
Damu even threw hot water on Khodijah’s leg and body in May to Jun of 2014 when she found out that Khodijah had taken and eaten a single longan fruit without her employer’s permission.
And in August of 2014, Damu punished Khodijah for working too slowly by burning both of her hands with a clothes iron.
Court papers showed that Khodijah has sustained bruises and permanent scars on her body and hands from the abuse delivered by Damu.
Damu’s abuse of Khodijah ended on April 23, 2015, after a MOM official went to their house on an inspection and found out about the maltreatment from Khodijah. The official reported Damu to the police on that same day.
Damu’s excuse for abusing Khodijah was that she was angry at Khodijah’s poor work performance.
In an earlier hearing this year, Damu also told a district court that she was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and experienced psychotic episodes where she heard voices. Her defense lawyers said that her medical condition had caused her to be “less tolerant” toward her employee.
But Judge Tay did not accept the excuses, saying Damu had done everything of her own volition, as MDD (also known as clinical depression) does not remove one’s self-control.
“Even if there is less tolerance … it doesn’t mean that she has the right to inflict bodily harm,” pronounced Judge Tay.
The hearing, which was interrupted by Damu falling ill, has been rescheduled to continue on October 30.
People were not shy with their opinions on Facebook.
Some said that the timing of Damu’s illness was suspicious and possibly an act:
Others firmly believe that she should go to jail for the abuse she heaped on Khodijah:
This user said that Damu will get what is coming to her and that “maids are human beings as well”:
This netizen said that MOM should make home visits a regular thing: