Police officer’s wife admits to starving and beating to death immigrant domestic worker

Mayank Aggarwal
·3-min read
<p>File image: An estimated 250,000 foreign domestic  workers are employed in Singapore</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

File image: An estimated 250,000 foreign domestic workers are employed in Singapore

(AFP via Getty Images)

A police officer’s wife in Singapore has admitted to starving and beating to death a 24-year-old immigrant domestic worker from Myanmar, prompting the island nation’s government to announce measures to check the wellbeing of all new foreign staff employed at homes.

On Tuesday, the camera footage of the accused, Gaiyathiri Murugayan, 40, pouring cold water on the domestic worker, Piang Ngaih Don, and shaking her like a rag doll was played out in the court. The footage showed her being slapped, pushed, punched, kicked and stomped upon.

Ms Murugayan has pleaded guilty to 28 charges including that of culpable homicide and, if convicted, she could face life imprisonment, reported The Straits Times.

Her lawyers are seeking a jail term of 14 years stating that Ms Murugayan was suffering from depression. The prosecution held that it has already been taken into consideration while reducing the murder charge to culpable homicide.

The Myanmar national had come to Singapore on 25 May, 2015 and started working for Mr Kevin Chelvam from 28 May. When she died in July 2016, the domestic worker weighed only 24 kilograms.

According to the news report, for months the domestic worker was physically assaulted on a daily basis, deprived of rest and food, and in the last two weeks of her life, was tied to the window at night and made to sleep on the floor.

Her ordeal was captured by the cameras that Mr Chelvam and his wife had installed to monitor the domestic worker and two children. Prema S Naraynasamy, 61, who is Ms Murugayan’s mother, is also facing charges.

The case has now forced the Singapore government’s ministry of manpower to announce efforts to reach out to all new foreign domestic workers about their well-being and seek the help of “healthcare providers” in identifying cases of possible abuse.

The ministry on Wednesday said Mr Chelvam had given feedback to the employment agent about communication problems and work performance but refused to take up the offer of replacement of the domestic worker. Mr Chelvam had previously employed four other domestic workers but the ministry had not received any complaints or adverse feedback from them.

In January 2016, after working with her employer for six months, the domestic worker had gone for her six-monthly medical examination and passed it. She again visited the same doctor in May 2016 for runny nose, cough and swelling on her legs but nothing adverse was flagged to the authorities’ attention on either occasion, the ministry said.

It has asked the public to reach out to them for help in case they are aware of any case of ill-treatment of such workers.

Singapore government’s manpower minister Josephine Teo, in a post on social media, said that they take the protection of foreign domestic workers seriously and urged the people to look out and report signs of abuse of foreign workers.

The ministry further said that they ensured that a full insurance payout was made to the next-of-kin of Ms Piang while adding that the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) made a donation to her family and facilitated her brother’s visit to Singapore.

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