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|A Ray of Hope for Nirmala Bonat|
Farah 'Fairy' Mahdzan
(25-Sep-2004) | Readers Say
"Would you like to meet her?"
"Meet her? Yang bener pak..." I laughed casually, but not before giving Pak N. a light jovial punch on his right bicep.
Pak N. asked me again.
"Mau gak ketemu orangnya?"
This time Pak N. looked so serious that I stopped grinning altogether. I stared with my mouth slightly gaping at him.
"She's here? I thought she had left the country?" I slowly inquired.
"No, she's still here, awaiting for her trial and the outcome," answered Pak N.
I swallowed my spit hard, coming to terms with reality.
"Ok then, if you say so, I'd like to see her," I said, clutching my camera a little too tightly. My friends from Jakarta, Dira and Riga, whom I had brought to the embassy to vote in the presidential election, looked at each other and agreed to tag along.
In truth, we were a bit nervous. We didn't know what to expect when we saw her; only vivid imageries of her lingered in our minds. You know, the ones that were published in the media.
And so we followed Pak N. to the back of the Indonesian embassy on Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. It had some living quarters, most of which were fully occupied by women.
"Who are these women?" I asked, taking note of the dingy and cramped settings they were living in.
"TKI (Tenaga Kerja Indonesia). The embassy has a responsibility to help our fellow Indonesians who have been mistreated by their employers who either abused or left them without pay. Here we house them, give them food and shelter until we can find a solution to their woes. I have to admit we are running out of place for these people," explained Pak N. almost apologetically.
I nodded in acknowledgement. Sadly, this was not an uncommon phenomenon in countries where blue-collared Indonesians frequently flock in search of work opportunity as housekeepers and construction workers. Uneducated and poor folks like these were so susceptible to abuse from freaky employers.
"Mana Nirmala?" asked Pak N. to a group of women who were lounging on some wooden benches nearby.
The ladies eyed us while answering to Pak N., "Lagi tidur, you want us to call her?"
"Oh she's sleeping I don't want to disturb her," I stammered, feeling guilty if we had to interrupt the young lady's afternoon nap.
And then out of the shadows, she slowly lurked into sight, as though she had heard us call her name. There stood Nirmala Bonat of Nusa Tenggara Timur, in a flaming red t-shirt. She had covered her short curly black locks with a black cap, and smiled away timidly. Pak N. proceeded to introduce us to Nirmala, explaining to her that we had just wanted to meet her for the sake of meeting.
"She can speak Bahasa Indonesia, kan?" I first asked Pak N. in English, not knowing if she could.
"Iya bisa, the one who doesn't speak Bahasa Indonesia is her mother, who was flown in from Kupang to see her right after we brought her in," said Pak N. quietly.
"Apa kabar, Nirmala, sudah baik-baik saja, bukan?" I started, extending my hand for a handshake. She took it. Her palm felt rough to the touch, like the surface of sandpaper. I was especially relieved to see that her face had healed marvellously, almost as though she had not been physically tortured before.
"Iya, baik-baik saja," she muttered softly, continuing to smile bashfully and showing a bit of yellowing teeth.
I looked sympathetically at her scarred face, my heart lurching out for her. I recalled seeing her bruised face and scalded body in the newspapers back in May, and how grim and sorrowful her condition was when she made those screaming and chillingly unforgettable headlines. Time certainly heals.
The story: Nirmala had come to Malaysia to work. While working as a maid for a family, the mother and wife of the family unit allegedly tortured her, including dousing Nirmala with boiling hot water and using a hot iron on her chest to inflict pain whenever the lady of the house felt Nirmala was not performing in her household duties. I have also read that Nirmala has lost her nipples due to the terrible ordeal of having her breasts ironed!
And it had all started when Nirmala broke a mug. A mug!
This torturing went on for months until Nirmala could no longer bear the pain. She ran away and was later discovered by authorities and turned in to the Indonesian embassy. With her body sporting boils and scars in the most unthinkable areas of her body, Nirmala was the gasping picture of horror and humiliation to the Malaysian public. We were shocked and outraged with the atrocious nature of the case, almost not wanting to believe that anyone could commit an act so heinous and inhumane to another human being in this place we call home.
"Trus gimana, are you planning to stay or are you planning to go home?" I asked, pushing away my mental pictures of Nirmala's earlier physical conditions.
"Saya mau pulang," she answered, still smiling. There was no end to the amount of strength and composure this young lady displayed in front of us.
"Don't you want to work for a bit more? I heard you got offered to work for a royal family here," I asked again, already knowing what her answer was going to be. She was quite determined, the young lass.
"Nggak, I just want to go home, I miss my family," she said.
Without a doubt, apart from the physical scars, Nirmala bore traumatic ones that have been permanently etched into her psychological and mental states. It was only expected that she had wanted to forever leave the place from whence the terror began.
"She can't go home yet," Pak N. said, "she still has to sit through her trials and testify her accounts of abuse from her previous employer. Hopefully justice can and will be served."
"Boleh saya foto Nirmala?" I asked, showing her my camera. The 19-year-old nodded in agreement. She had probably gotten used to being in front of the camera when all the hype about her abuse case was highlighted by the media.
But my photos will be unique, I told myself; they will serve as documentation of how much Nirmala has progressed from her disfigurations. A few clicks and blinding flashes later, I was done.
Nirmala had posed awkwardly, occasionally bursting into peals of giggles as her friends in the background coo-ed at her for being a "superstar."
After a bit of silence, like we were trying to digest this all in, we decided to bid goodbye.
"Semoga sukses ya Nirmala, dan selamat pulang nanti ke tanahair," Dira said, shaking Nirmala's hand. Riga and I followed pursuit and wished her well and to have a safe journey home too. I especially thanked Nirmala for letting me photograph her.
"Terima kasih juga," said Nirmala. And with another smile, she turned around to walk over to her friends to join them in their playful banter.
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|WHAT READERS SAY ABOUT A Ray of Hope for Nirmala Bonat:|
#21. Finally Nirmala's abuser gets jail time:
December 03, 2009 19:52 PM
Yim's Jail Sentence Reduced To 12 Years
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 (Bernama) -- The High Court on Thursday reduced the jail sentence on housewife Yim Pek Ha from 18 years to 12 years for causing grievous hurt to Indonesian housemaid Nirmala Bonat in 2004.
Judicial Commissioner Azman Abdullah allowed an application by Yim's counsel Datuk Jagjit Singh to defer the jail sentence despite protest by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Rozela Raja Toran.
Yim, 41, a mother of four children aged 4-11 years-old shed tears after hearing the judge's decision.
In his judgement, Azman said after studying the facts of the case and the appeal, the court decided to uphold Yim's conviction on the first and second charge.
The court took into account the maximum 20 years' jail sentence under Section 326 of the Penal Code and that the decision of the Sessions Court judge in passing 18 years' jail for each charge was the heaviest under the section.
"After studying the facts of the case and injuries sustained by the victim and the counsel appeal that she is a first offender with four young children, I hereby reduce the jail sentence for both charges from 18 years to five years."
Azman however allowed the prosecution appeal that both sentences run consecutively and not concurrently as ordered by the Sessions Court and would give his reasons in detail later.
On Nov 27 last year, Yim was found guilty on two counts of hurting Nirmala with an iron and splashing hot water on the maid at Villa Putera, Jalan Tun Ismail here in Jan, March and April 2004.
For the third charge, the judge allowed Yim's appeal to drop the conviction and 18 years' jail sentence by the Sessions Court due to confusion in the charge paper.
He said Nirmala testified that she was attacked with an iron in March and not April and that the prosecution had failed to amend the charge.
For the fourth charge, Azman allowed the prosecution appeal by convicting Yim for hurting Nirmala with a metal cup at the same place on May 17, 2004.
Yim was sentenced two years' jail with the sentence to run consecutively to the other sentences. She was acquitted and discharged by the Sessions Court.
Azman said during her testimony, Nirmala did not show signs of having epilepsy or that she was insane.
"Nirmala's testimony on the injuries was in line with medical reports and the testimony of specialists and that she did not have the chance to report the abuse to anyone."
The judge said logically, as a mother, Yim should take good care of her housemaid.
"Based on the photographs adduced, the pain inflicted on the victim is beyond imagination," he added.
Azman told Yim that the sentences meted on her were a reminder and lesson to others not to hurt the weak.
"What more against wives, children, housemaids and even animals," he added.
DPP Raja Rozela said she will appeal against the jail sentences.
Posted by Fairy - Website on 4-Dec-2009, 04:54 MYT
#19. At last after 3 years of trial, justice has surfaced for Nirmala Bonat. Former maid employer Yim has been sentenced 18 years in jail for abusing Nirmala: Link
#17. EBB, read this please:
#16. don't mean to be unfair or anything. But didnt Nirmala have a pyschological problem (read: mad)? the burn in her body was there longer. she tortures herself especially about the nipple thingy. but then again, no one really knows, right?
#15. Good luck to Nirmala. Glad to know she's OK. Well, I hope justice is done.
#13. awesome report....
#11. what a progress she's made! Wishing her n her family well.
#10. DUSYUM: Yes her case was reopened earlier this week, I have another article about Nirmala in Bhs Indonesia contributed by a friend from the Indo embassy so I'll put that up later during the week.
#9. yes. it refers to your being able to meet her personally.
#8. JIDA: Glad to have the opportunity to share Nirmala's update with you and everyone else.
#5. WHOA! Congrats Fairy on an awesome update about Nirmala. I'm glad that she's somehow appears healed from the severe abuse she's received. But clearly that can only seem physical. I hope the person(s) who did this to her will be treated with the same kind of 'mercy' she showed Nirmala. Thanks Fairy for sharing.
#4. The photo in your article fairy .. is a fine example of somebody even though with so much pain and grief can still smile ....Hope she gets justice through fair means.
#3. I was really glad to see that the scars on her have healed, especially around her facial regions. I could hardly tell that she was the same tortured Nirmala from months before.
#2. behind that smiley face. we would never know what lies beneath. hope it's a fair trial for her. some ppl are just plain inhuman. even if they are maids, they are not animals and even animals are protected!
#1. Good luck Nirmala ! :
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