Home wreckers maid in China?

EARLIER this month, cosmetics entrepreneur Nor Zaina Abdul Ghani aka Datin Ira Ghani reportedly lost about RM500,000 when two of her maids absconded with cash, luxury watches, and other jewellery from her home.

The maids who had worked for her for over a year and whom she claimed she treated like family, apparently went missing while she was visiting Singapore.

I sympathise with her, not just for the financial loss she suffered but also the feeling of betrayal she must have felt.

This reminds me of my family's experience with maids – we had five over three and a half years.

The first four gave us what could be considered "common problems" which many other employers have encountered, from the complaints and stories I have heard.

They ranged from running away, theft, trying on madam's lingerie to letting strangers into the house when the employers were away.

Then came maid number five, who seemed like the answer to our prayers.

As with our previous maids, we treated the maid "Su" like a family member – to the point that she started behaving like the major-domo at home, so much so she often took the liberty to invite my mum and sis over to my house for dinner she had cooked, without consulting either my wife or me.

Sometime in her second year with us the homey, family-like relationship turned into a nightmare.

One morning, my wife came out from her bath on hearing our then two-year-old daughter Alicia crying incessantly and saw that the maid was ignoring the child strapped to her baby chair.

When my wife asked the maid why she was not trying to pacify the child, the maid picked up a chopper from the kitchen counter and acted crazily, wielding the chopper as she marched towards Alicia.

This prompted my wife, despite being wrapped only in her towel, to spring into action like Zorro, grab a chair and use its legs to fend off the chopper-wielding maid to protect our daughter.

Fortunately, the chopper vs chair battle did not go on for too long as the maid passed out, and was sent to a mental hospital. She was repatriated a couple of weeks later.

That incident left Alicia in shock. She was speechless for three days before she recovered and asked "What happened to Aunty Su?" That was the last full-time, live-in maid I ever hired.

On the issue of maids, I sympathise with the thousands of families who need domestic helpers to do chores and care for their old or their young.

As such I laud the government's initiative in looking to more countries for the supply of maids, in the wake of the problems Malaysian families have faced in getting them from Indonesia.

Following several cases of maid abuse, which ostensibly sparked concern for the welfare of more than 200,000 maids in Malaysia, Indonesia imposed a moratorium in June 2009 on its citizens coming to work as maids here.

Then, after agreeing to lift the moratorium and signing an MoU with Malaysia last year to let the supply resume, the Indonesians suddenly talked about a "one maid, one chore" stipulation – while demanding a minimum salary of RM700 a month.

A bit absurd, isn't it? If maids are marketed on the basis that they come trained in four core skills, but they only perform one of the four, their KPI score would be 25%, and they should perhaps be entitled to a quarter of their salary.

Anyway, it would be good not to be too dependent on Indonesia and allow maids from more countries.

I, however, think it is ridiculous that the women's wing of some political parties have consistently vetoed the hiring of maids from Thailand and China.

Decades ago, there were thousands of amahs from China working in Malaysia, helping Chinese families here with the housework and raising their children.

They were ideal for Chinese homes given the similarities in culture, food, and language, which many employers of Cambodian, Vietnamese and Myanmar workers will tell you have been problem areas for them.

As for Thai women, many, particularly those from South Thailand, are Muslims and Malay speaking and will be able to work for Malay families here, while others of Teochew and Hokkien descent can easily fit into Chinese families.

Ostensibly, the basis of saying no to "Suzie Wongs" being allowed to work as maids arises from the fear that the little dragon women will become home wreckers. So much for the confidence and trust these women's wings reps have in their husbands.

But even granting the women their insecurities which led to their pre-emptive strike against maids from Thailand and China, they should consider if there is much difference between women from China and other countries who are allowed to work here.

Are women from these other countries considered more pious or less attractive, or perhaps less devilish than their sisters from Thailand and China – and therefore less of a threat as home wreckers?

Why are Thai and Chinese women categorised as loose and a threat to families?

For that matter, shouldn't local Malay wives have the same fear about Indonesian women working as maids in their homes, and get the government to ban them as well?

Come on! Let's get real!

Freddie Ng is managing editor of theSun and can be reached at fred@thesundaily.com