Rescued maid flip-flops on abuse claims
WAS she locked in her employer's home, made to work long hours and starved as she had claimed?
Or did she make all that up to get out of her employment contract?
The story of Indonesian maid Wahyuni and her dramatic rescue was first told by non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) on its website.
But in a subsequent interview with Ministry of Manpower (MOM) officials, Miss Wahyuni changed her story (see other report).
TWC2 insists that its version of events is accurate. It promotes equitable treatment for migrant workers in Singapore.
TWC2 executive committee member Shelley Thio, 54, said its volunteers, including herself, always tell the maids to tell the truth when making statements to the authorities.
An MOM spokesman said: "In accordance with our protocol, a statement was properly recorded with the assistance of an interpreter in Malay, a language understood by the worker.
"Before finalising, the interpreter read back the statement to Miss Wahyuni and she confirmed the information recorded."
So why did Miss Wahyuni lie?
Ms Thio said it was the maid's first time working overseas.
"She was scared, alone and not empowered by her employers. Not having had any day off, she had no friends, no contacts and no access to information," she said.
The tip-off about Miss Wahyuni came in late November through an e-mail message from the blogsite TR Emeritus.
Ms Thio and Ms Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, another committee member, went to the house in the Thomson area to investigate.
Both TWC2 and MOM declined to give the exact location of the house or the name of Miss Wahyuni's former employer.
According to the story posted on TWC2's website, the two rescuers had to crouch outside the gate, near a ditch and trash bins, to whisper to the maid as she was being watched.
Through conversations pieced together over several visits, they believed that Miss Wahyuni had not had a day off in over two years, did not get enough food and did not really want to continue working there.
This, Ms Thio said, was corroborated with the whistle-blower and other witnesses' accounts.
She also said a large padlock on the gate attested to the fact that the maid was not allowed out of the house.
"We found out later that everyone in the family has a key to the padlock except Miss Wahyuni," Ms Thio said.
However, MOM is disputing the version of events that Miss Wahyuni, who returned to Indonesia on Dec 19, had told TWC2.
"In handling cases, it is important to remain dispassionate and objective, neither favouring the employer nor the employee," an MOM spokesman told The New Paper on Sunday.
"It is regrettable that TWC2 was so eager to believe a story of alleged abuse and to publish a grossly untruthful account on its website.
"At no time did Miss Wahyuni indicate that she was confined by her employer against her will in the house."
She said that from interviews done with the maid, MOM ascertained that "no offence has been alleged by Miss Wahyuni to be committed by her employer".
"She was neither mistreated, abused, nor did she allege that she was confined against her will. Miss Wahyuni merely wanted to terminate her employment contract to return to Indonesia," added the spokesman.
"This could have been done lawfully by invoking the termination clause and serving out her notice period as in her employment contract - without TWC2 needing to whisk her away."
THE NEW PAPER