NGANJUK, East Java : After returning home to Indonesia, former domestic helper Parti Liyani said she hopes her acquittal can inspire other migrant workers who are facing legal problems to never give up if they are innocent.
Ms Parti, who worked for ex-Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, was accused of stealing from her former employer’s family and initially convicted in 2019 but acquitted by the High Court of all theft charges last year.
Speaking to CNA at her family home in East Java province on Wednesday (Feb 3), Ms Parti, 46, said she hopes what happened to her can motivate other migrant workers to keep on fighting if they did not do anything wrong.
“If you’re innocent, you have to defend yourself and fight. Don’t give up.
“Don’t think because you have a family (to take care of), you have to quit. Don’t be like that. Hopefully, there won’t be any case like this again in Singapore,” she said, adding that she has no regrets.
Ms Parti was cleared of all charges in September last year but only returned to Indonesia on Jan 27.
A disciplinary tribunal has been convened to look into allegations of misconduct by prosecutors in their handling of the theft trial. Ms Parti is expected to return to Singapore ahead of ongoing proceedings.
Indonesia currently imposes a five-day mandatory quarantine regulation for people arriving from abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After undergoing a polymerase chain reaction (PRC) test on the third day in East Java’s capital Surabaya which came back negative, she was allowed to return to Nganjuk, a drive of about 2.5 hours.
She took another PCR test on day five and was told to stay at home for the next nine days.
Ms Parti said she was overjoyed to reunite with her family although she has yet to give anyone a hug, wanting to keep a safe distance until the end of the 14-day period.
“It feels like a dream … I am very happy that I can return to Indonesia and meet my family.”
“I MISSED MY MOTHER THE MOST”
Ms Parti had not been home for four years. With a tear in her eye, she said: “I missed my mother the most. I miss the others too, but not as much as I missed mother.”
While the case was ongoing, she called her mother once a month but kept the situation a secret as she did not want her to worry.
The sixth child of nine, Ms Parti told her siblings that she had a problem, but did not go into the details.
She only revealed the full picture after she was cleared of the charges and her family saw the news on local television.
After knowing about what she has gone through, her mother kept asking why she was still abroad if she was free, Ms Parti recounted.
When CNA met Mdm Kasmi, who goes by one name, the elderly lady said she is happy that her daughter is home.
Ms Parti said she does not want to work abroad again. She plans to spend her days taking care of her mother, while perhaps opening a food stall in front of her house.
Ms Parti had been working with Mr Liew Mun Leong and his family from 2007 until Oct 28, 2016, when she was terminated abruptly.
Ms Parti told CNA that her relationship with the family was initially cordial. She said that she barely spoke with Mr Liew Mun Leong as he was rarely at home.
But one day, there was a disagreement as she was ordered to clean Mr Karl Liew’s home, which he had moved into sometime in 2016, said Ms Parti.
After being terminated, Ms Parti decided to return to Singapore to seek employment, but was shocked when she was arrested at Changi Airport upon arrival on Dec 2, 2016. The accusation was that she had stolen from the Liew family.
During the trial, the East Java native was helped mostly by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME). The NGO helped to get her a translator and paid for all her expenses as she was not able to work after being arrested.
“I stayed at HOME’s (shelter) and was given allowance for personal needs. Everything was provided by HOME for four years and until I left on Jan 27; they also accompanied me to the airport,” said Ms Parti.
There were other migrant workers in the shelter who also had problems and Ms Parti spent her days helping them. She said that helping others saw her through the tough times.
She remembers helping to accompany a fellow Indonesian migrant worker to the airport, manpower ministry and police station. “I had many activities. I didn’t want to stay put and just wait until my case ended. I was busy.”
Apart from HOME, the Indonesian embassy also checked on her regularly and a representative was present during the trial.
HIGH COURT VERDICT CAUGHT HER BY SURPRISE
During the trial, Ms Parti initially doubted whether she would prevail, she said. But she was determined not to give up, knowing that she did not steal anything.
Once her case reached the High Court, she started to think she might have a chance of winning.
When the verdict was read out in the High Court, she did not realise what happened as she was in a separate room without her lawyer and HOME’s staff.
“When I left the room, they congratulated me. And I was like: ‘Why?’
“They told me that I won … and we all started crying out of joy. I could not believe it.”
Looking ahead, she hopes what happened to her can be an eye-opener for employers.
“Hopefully, after my case, Singaporean employers will not accuse their maids arbitrarily. Even though they are maids, don’t look down on them,” she said.