Justice to Adelina! Stop Abuse – No to exclusion from Labour Protection in Malaysia!

An abuser of domestic workers should not be walking free. We must give justice and rights to migrant domestic workers in Malaysia. AMMPO and PERTIMIG Malaysia express their demand to include domestic workers in the Employment Act (2021) Bill.

Press Statement Dec, 9 2021

Justice to Adelina
Stop Abuse and Forced Labor in the Domestic Sector in Malaysia!
Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 – No Exclusion of Domestic Workers in the first schedule and in the Bill.

We, organizations of domestic workers in Malaysia, AMMPO and PERTIMIG, feel outrageous to hear that S. Ambika, the employer of Adeline Sao, was absent from the court hearing at the Federal Court of Malaysia.

Adeline, the 21-year-old Indonesian migrant domestic worker, died of organ failure in February 2018. Her justice is yet to be sought. We hope the arrest warrant issued by the court today can help. A suspect of murder walking free, is not only unjust for Adelina but also sets a wrong example to the whole  society.

The abuse to death case, which is only one of the many, reveals that the Malaysian legal system has failed to protect the basic rights of domestic workers. Migrant domestic workers are still in forced labour situations. In 2020-2021, PERTIMIG and AMMPO received around 75 complaints from domestic workers about unpaid salary, salary deduction, document withholding, no day offs, illnesses, physical abuses and sexual harassment. It proves the weakness or even the obvious absence of protection for migrant domestic workers by the Malaysian authorities. Most migrant domestic workers in Malaysia do not have access to communication, no day-off, or their passports are withheld by employers, or, worse, they are locked up in the employers’ homes without any possibility of mobility. Although there have been many attempts to change the conditions of migrant domestic workers in  Malaysia, the fact of the matter is that migrant domestic workers are not even recognised as workers, according to the Employment Act of 1955. Migrant domestic workers are excluded from the provision of the Employment Act 1955. This means that domestic workers cannot access basic worker rights such as rest days and holidays, maternity rights and protection, or work extremely long or short hours.

Next week, the Malaysian Parliament will have its 2nd reading of the Employment Amendment (Bill) 2021. The change of the term of domestic workers in the Bill from “servants” to “domestic employees” should have set a bearing on workers’ rights – domestic workers are workers. However, exclusion of domestic workers from its clauses in the Bill is not a substantial change in this direction. We, Persatuan Pekerja Rumah Tangga Indonesia Migran (PERTIMIG), Asosasyon ng mga Makabayang
Manggagawang Pilipino Oveseas (AMMPO) in Malaysia with the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) demand that the Malaysian government must:

  1. ENSURE justice for Adelina and her family – the prosecution must work in full swing to search and arrest S. Ambika with the court warrant.
  2. ENSURE that the Employment Amendment (Bill) 2021 has not excluded domestic workers from any provision of the Bill by removing the exclusion of domestic workers in the first schedule section 2(1) of Employment Act 1955.
  3. ESTABLISH A CLEAR DEFINITION ON FORCED LABOR, legal provisions and mechanisms in line with the ILO Convention 29 and the P029 – Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labor Convention, 1930 as referred to in this article to ensure that domestic workers are free from any practice of forced labor that has been happening so far and to provide victims  protection and access to appropriate and effective remedies, such as compensation, and to sanction the perpetrators of forced or compulsory labor.
  4. ESTABLISH effective monitoring and labor inspection system under the Ministry of Human Resource Malaysia;
  5. RATIFY C189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

Persatuan Pekerja Rumah Tangga Indonesia Migran (PERTIMIG)
Asosasyon ng mga Makabayang Manggagawang Pilipino Overseas (AMMPO)
International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF)

Nasrikah, Adviser of PERTIMIG Malaysia

Liezl Rodrigo, Coordinator of AMMPO Malaysia
Email: [email protected]

Bariyah, Field Organizer of IDWF
Email: [email protected]


Details of the case of Adeline:

Adeline Sao, an Indonesian Migrant Domestic Worker, 21, died in Bukit Mertajam Hospital on February, 11, 2018 from organ failure. When she was rescued, she was found sleeping outside the employer’s house together with the employer’s dog. Her arm and legs were covered in a burn mask. Her face was swollen, and she was terrified when she was brought to the hospital to get treatment. Only one day after being hospitalized, she died in Bukit Mertajam Hospital. A “post-mortem” reported that she
died from multiple organ failure, as released by the police. The post-mortem, conducted by Dr Amir Saad bin Abdul Rahim at Seberang Jaya Hospital, also revealed that Adelina Sao’s organ failure was  due to anemia. 

Following days, three members of the employers’ families including S. Ambika, 61, was arrested by Central Seberang Perai district police and detained in Bukit Mertajam Magistrate’s Court in Penang. Adelina’s employer then was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder which carries a death sentence upon conviction. However, it became very disappointing and unjust, when the Penang High court discharged S. Ambika on 18th April 2019, and she walked free while the prosecution had requested for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA). 

The Malaysian Attorney General’s Office (AGO) then started an appeal process against the recent Penang High Court decision to acquit the abusive employer of the murder charge of deceased Indonesian worker Adelina Sau. That case then shifted to the Federal Court in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur. Furthermore, a process was followed by hearing In January, 14, 2020 and “case management” in March, 4, 2020.Today, an arrest warrant has been issued against the accused employer, S. Ambika for failing to appear for court hearings, despite repeated attempts to reach out by the prosecution. The next hearing has been scheduled for 24th Jan, 2022. 

Adelina was recruited by a sponsor in Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) and has been working with her employer for four years without any access to communication and even her wages were not paid until  she died. This case is reminiscent of previous abuses suffered by Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia, for example, Nirmala Bonat in 2004. However, we believe there are many cases unreported since migrant domestic workers in Malaysia do not have access to a more humane reporting system whenever they face employment problems.


Wajah bengkak, luka bakar, gigitan anjing,’ upaya mencari keadilan bagi Adelina Lisao: ‘Tak boleh ada lagi penyiksaan pembantu rumah tangga’, BBC Indonesia, 9 Dec 2021

Arrest warrant out for senior citizen in maid murder case, FreeMalaysia Today, 9 Dec 2021

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