Adelina Lisao had a dog’s life* as a Malaysian maid. She suffered in silence, in pain and in terror. Society wake up!

Indonesian, Adelina Lisao, who was allegedly abused by her employers, died in the Bukit Mertajam Hospital on Sunday 11 February 2018. She was only 21 years old. She had bruises on her head and face, and chemical burns on her limbs, which had become infected. The post mortem results showed that she was anaemic and had died of multiple organ failure.

So many questions remain unanswered. Adelina’s fate could have been avoided, but as always, the faulty system and our inability to reach out, failed the victim.

We claim not to want to get involved, because it is someone else’s problem. In the end, it becomes our problem and it will not be resolved till our MPs pass laws to protect the rights of migrant workers, and the laws are enforced strictly.

Adelina’s mistreatment is not the first to have been highlighted. Maids have been beaten unconscious, starved, sexually abused, mentally abused, threatened, denied holidays and had their passports confiscated by their employers.

When will the government punish employers who mistreat and kill their maids?


A few months ago, the employers of a Cambodian maid, who died after being starved, received a paltry 10-year jail sentence. When she died, 24-year-old Mey Sichan weighed only 26 kilograms. Perhaps with good behaviour, her killers will be released early. The sentence is not a deterrent.

Killers of Cambodian, Mey Sichan

Why did it take so long to rescue Adelina? It was reported that she worked in a semi-detached house in Taman Kota Permai. It is not as if the house was an isolated bungalow, miles from the nearest neighbour. Shouting was heard every other day.

A neighbour claimed that Adelina had wounds on her hands and legs. It was reported that she had been seen sleeping on a torn mat, on the porch, with the family’s pet Rottweiler, for the past two months.

The neighbours alerted a journalist, last week, and he contacted Steven Sim, the MP for Bukit Mertajam. The Municipal Councillor, Joshua Woo, and his colleagues, went to check on Adelina, but her employers were uncooperative and told them to stop being busybodies.

Woo then lodged a police report, and the police ordered Adelina’s employers to bring her to the police station. Was this how Adelina was found to have been sleeping on the porch, for the last two months? Or had the neighbours known, for many weeks?

Was sleeping on the porch with the dog, a form of punishment?

Did Adelina not have a decent and private place to sleep?  Would she have been saved if her plight had been reported earlier?

She was treated like a dog. Was she also fed scraps? It appears that she was also denied medicine and medical aid.

It is disingenuous of the Indonesia consul, in Butterworth, Neni Kurniati, to claim that Adelina had not complained about her employer, for whom she had been working for the past three years.

Filipino maid who was beaten by her Malaysian employer Credit Filipino Times

Not all maids are treated with decency 

This is the experience of some maids. Once the gates to the employer’s drive close, the maid is imprisoned. She has no contact with the outside world, unless her employer brings her for visits to a doctor or to the Consulate, to have her passport extended.

Is Kurniati out of touch with what happens in Malaysia?

Moreover, Kurnita should understand that the maid may not have access to a phone, or her phone may have been confiscated. How will she purchase a SIM card? How will she get to a post box, or post office, to mail a letter?

When Woo visited the house, to make his initial inquiries, the maid was too petrified to talk to him. Even the police were unable to speak to her, to find out what had transpired, because she was afraid.

Wouldn’t you be afraid, if some uniformed personnel questioned you, especially if your employer had warned you, that the police were going to lock you away, or send you home.

Workers who go overseas, so that they can send money to their families, may perceive deportation as the ultimate humiliation.

Two siblings in their late thirties and their 60-year-old mother have been detained. They deny abuse.

(* A dog’s life: An unhappy existence, full of problems or unfair treatment)

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  • Jeannie Khoo says:

    Our Justice System Has Once Again FAILED Its Victims !!!! O Call for a Retrial….n MAXIMUM PUNISHMENT To be Meted Out to the Employer. A Life IS MOST PRECIOUS n It HAS BEEN TAKEN PREMATUREDLY !!!!!!!!!

  • Hang Kasturi says:

    Kak, I have already commented on your Facebook blog that the maid situation in Malaysia or anywhere else for that matter is untenable and should be abolish. The position of the maids and their working situation is like modern day slavery and their life is one of servitude. It is totally cruel and heartless and some pets are treated better than the maids, and the pets have the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty towards animals, to oversee their welfare where as the maids have none. I am sure if we do not allow the hiring of maids, these poor souls will have to seek employment closer to home or their government will have to come up with a workable solutions instead of seeing their citizens being exploited in a modern slave like conditions. I am deeply passionate about it and hence I was going to embark on writing about their situation and exposed their mistreatment. But I was unable to gather evidence including statistics of the number as well as their countries of origin for my book but was thwarted by the Singapore Department of Manpower who refused to provide me with the figures. The island state is the largest recipient state of maids in South East Asia followed closely by Hong Kong. I am really mad that my fellow Malaysians can stooped to such a low level to treat another human being worse than animals notwithstanding that animals should also not be treated in this manner. I am truly and deeply angry about this form of servitude and have been for a long time, to the extent I would always challenge relatives or friends that have such practice. I have even vowed that I will break off friendship and not visit them at their houses if the practice continued. This is a senseless and totally avoidable scenario. A lot of maids are hired essentially to do household chores of which some personal time should and must be allocated to perform each week. I often read with sadness such mistreatment especially in the Singapore media about employers using iron to burn the maid or scald them with hot boiling water, or even deprive them of food for several days. Such cruelty must be stopped and no amount of legislation other than prohibition will cure the situation.

  • Bidwell White says:

    no family maid should be exposed to chemicals that would burn their flesh like that. No normal household cleaning supplies should do that to someone.
    That had to have been intentionally done to her. Those people are sick sadistic monsters who should have everything they own confiscated.
    They obviously burned her with acid.

  • helen firmanto says:

    Dont this family have any conscious,? How can they mistreat an human being like Adelina. Its really sad and they should sought to imprisonment for the crime they committed.

  • Ravi says:

    I’ve known, through Malaysian friends and relatives, that foreign maids do not possess the freedom that foreign maids in, eg. Europe, enjoy. This is mainly due to a lack of legislation and enforcement for the control and protection of foreign labour laws within the country.
    How I was made aware of this, primarily, when I was informed, by relatives, that passports are confiscated and kept for ‘safe-keeping’ and prevention of such maids from absconding or from going to another employer – often of their choice. This is often encouraged by the maid-agency or ‘middle-man’ responsible for bringing-over these often vulnerable girls or women.
    This is already an infringement of basic human rights. However, this has been STANDARD practice since import of foreign maids and foreign-labour became profitable for the ‘agencies’; and ‘fashionable’ and cheap for the homeowner – starting in the 70’s and 80’s.
    What we have learned or heard about – percolating down through to media platforms like this – is that this could be just the ‘tip of an iceberg’. Human Rights has always been shunted to the sidelines, in favour, for profits and greed.

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