Tears come to tears for Meriance Kabu as she recalls her story of abuse in Kuala Lumpur.
“Help me. My boss is torturing me,” wrote Meriance Kabu. “Every day I am covered in blood, help me!”
She quickly folded her note and threw it through the closed iron door of the suburban Kuala Offa room where she lived and worked as a maid.
A passing woman caught her. When he had read it, he immediately reported his signature to the policeman, who lived in the same building. “If he had stayed there, of course he would have died,” he said later.
On the same day, December 20, 2014, the Malaysian police knocked on the door of the apartment where Meriance lived, and from which he did not leave for eight months.
“I felt like I was going to break,” she said, recalling the moment she saw the police officers. “They tell me, ‘Don’t be afraid, we are here.’ Then I felt strong again. I felt like breathing again. The police came and I told them the truth.”
This story contains details that may disturb some readers.
It continues nine years after Meriance they want justice to be done. His case, which is far from unique, shows how exposed the most undocumented migrants are, and how often justice fails even those who tell the story of survivors.
In 2015, the police charged Meriance’s employer, Ong Su Ping Serene, with causing trouble serious injury, murder, human trafficking, violations of immigration laws. He said he was guilty.
Meriance testifies in court before finally returning to his family. Two years later, he received word from the Indonesian embassy that the prosecutors had dropped the case, saying that the information was enough.
Meriance’s husband says he didn’t recognize her when she was rescued.
“The speaker is released, where there is justice,” asks the country’s ambassador to Malaysia, Hermono (many Indonesians use the same name) who met in October in Meriance.
The embassy retained legal counsel for her and was pressing for the case against Meriance’s employer to be reopened.
“What was the reason for the delay? Isn’t it enough? If we don’t ask, it will be forgotten, especially since Meriantia has already returned home.”
It is not clear why in a few abuse cases he was eventually found guilty in Malaysia, but activists point to a culture that views domestic workers, most of whom are Indonesian, ad second class citizens they do not deserve the same protection as the Malaysians.
The Malaysian Foreign Ministry told the BBC that they would “make sure that justice is done according to the law”.
In 2018, a court in Indonesia indicted two men for trafficking marijuana. The judge found that she was sent to work in Malaysia as a “domestic slave for Ong Su Ping Serenu, who tortured her, causing serious injuries” that took her to hospital.
Meriance’s trial, with all her disturbances, is described in the sentences that her master had beaten her severely; broken nose at one time and used to they tortured her with irons, tongs, hammers, clubs, and red-hot tongs.
Eighteen years later, the body still bears the marks of the guns. He still has a deep upper lip, four teeth are missing, and one ear is ugly.
Her husband Karvius says she was miserable when she was rescued: “I was so shocked when they showed me the pictures of Meri in the hospital.”
Last year, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to improve domestic labor conditions in the Indonesian region. Indonesia is now pushing to reopen the case.
Undocumented workers like her are especially vulnerable because they They hold a diploma and they live with their employer in a foreign country, leaving them with few options to ask for help.
“Everyone should be concerned,” says Malaysian parliamentarian Anna Yeoh, who wants to see an end to what she describes as a culture of silence about the abuse of domestic workers in the country.
The Ministry of Manpower says there are more than 63,000 Indonesian domestic workers but it does not include workers in the country. There are no clear opinions on their number. The Indonesian embassy says it has received reports of abuse in nearly 500 cases over the past five years.
The figure is only “the tip of the iceberg,” as Ambassador Hermono says, because many cases, especially those involving undocumented workers, go unreported.
“I don’t know when this will end. What we do know is that there are more and more victims, from torture cases to non-payment of wages and other crimes.”
“I will fight until I die”
“I will fight for justice until I die,” said Meriance. “I just want to be able to ask my master, ‘Why do you torture me?’
Meriance with her husband and three children.
He was 32 years old when he decided to look for work abroad so that “his children would stop crying because they had no food”. Life was difficult in his village in West Timor, where no electricity or water. And the husband’s salary as a day laborer was not enough to support his family of six.
Meriance accepted a job offer in Malaysia and dreamed of building a house for her family.
When he arrived in Kuala Lumpur in April 2014, the manager took his passport and handed it to his boss. Recruiters was already in Indonesia remote phone
But Meriance dreamed of a better life. Her job was to “care for grandma”, the mother of her employer Serenissima, who was 93 years old at the time. Three weeks after he started work, he said, the beatings began.
One night, Serena wanted to cook fish, but she couldn’t find it in the refrigerator because Meriance put it in the freezer by mistake. Suddenly he felt the shock of the frozen fish. His head began to bleed. After this, he says that he beats himself every day.
Meriance remembers that they never let her out of the apartment. The door to the room was always closed and he had no keys. Four of his neighbors, who lived in the same building, were unaware of his life until the police arrived.
“I saw only that night it was taken,” said one of them.
Meriance says to the guns The beatings stopped just when I said that I had had enough. Then he ordered Meriance to wash the stains and the walls with his blood.
Sometimes, he said, he thought about his life. But the thought of her four children quickened her.
Thinking about his children helped Meriance cap.
“I, too, am opposed to it,” he said. “If he had fought, he would have died.”
Then one day at the end of 2014 he looked in the mirror and felt that something had changed. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m angry, not at my employer. I’m angry at me. I’m trying to get out of there.”
And so he wrote a message to restore liberty.
The BBC tried several times to contact her host, Ong Su Ping Serena, to hear her account, but she refused to talk.
Merentia says that he fights for others like himself, and for those who do not survive.
Hermono is now dealing with a domestic worker who says he was tortured inhumanely. When she was delivered, she only weighed 30 kilos. I tell you the culprit.
But some, like 20-year-old Adelina Sau, didn’t make it in time. I mean that he killed her by starvation and torture.
She was charged with murder, but in 2019 the charges were dropped. An appeal to dismiss the case was rejected last year.
Adelina from the same territory of Meriance in West Timor. Meriance says that Adelina’s mother met her in her village and said to her: “If your daughter is dead, her voice is in me.”