Al-Fatihah and a letter to the Home Minister and all Parliamentarians

by Dr. Azly Rahman

Sad sad day.

Today is an extremely sad day for me. It concerns my beloved former English teacher, Puan Rahmah Sahamid. I had just read a Malaysia-Today entry on the passing of her beloved sister Habnah.

Let me reproduce a letter she wrote to Malaysia-Today and I am asking this issue which concerns perhaps millions of Malaysians as well to be brought to Parliament. I am asking both elected representatives from both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat to deal with this in a bi-partisan manner.

Below is Puan Rahmah’s story and her urgent appeal, reproduced in full:


Letter to the Editor/Relevant Authorities/

On the night of 29 April, my dear sister was brutally murdered in her bedroom; she had sustained head injuries, her internal organs severely ruptured. What would the last moments have been for her before she died? Did she expect the blow to come from someone she trusted and took into the safety of her own home? How she must have put up a fight, worrying for our aged mother, blissfully unaware of the gruesome murder taking place in the next room.My sister was found the next day sprawling in a pool of blood.She was 62 and lived with my mother,84 years of age and an Indonesian maid. There was no sign of forced entry. The Indonesian maid had disappeared, leaving her bloodstained clothes behind .From the evidence, according to police, the maid is the prime suspect.

How can I describe the essence that was my sister Habnah? The newspaper reports only describe her as a victim, maybe just another one of many that we read about so often in the papers over tea or coffee, or while waiting to catch the bus. That victim, my sister was so much more. She was generous as she was kind. It took her sudden death for us to realize how much she gave of herself ,to each member of our very large ,close knit family and especially to my aged mother-making sure she took her daily supplements, reminding her of her meals, her rest ,managing the repairs of the house ,groceries ,my mother’s daily meals, finances, medical health, as well as the 1001 things that a loving and dutiful daughter does every day for a much beloved mother.

How could this have happened? Could it be possible that a person we had let into our home to take care of two elderly women was the perpetrator of this heinous crime ?My late sister was always careful to lock all doors and windows as precautions for security .But what precautions can one take when the criminal is locked in? We had engaged the maid from an authorized agency, had complied with all the procedures, made the requisite payments. Do we not have a right to expect that the maids we employ had at least been vetted to ensure that we are not letting into our homes psychotic, deranged persons who commit unspeakable acts of violence?

Much fuss is made when foreign maids are allegedly abused or ill treated by employers, and Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are quick to jump in to render protection and justice. But what justice is rendered to my late sister? What protection is afforded to employers and their charges against the wrath of psychotic, deranged or violent foreign maids?

I have been told that the chances of apprehending the prime suspect-the Indonesian maid is extremely slim, because of the ease with which she is able to slip out of the country undetected. What is even more fearful is that she could slip back into the country still undetected to take employment in another unsuspecting household, under another name. Such is possible because of the serious lack of mechanisms of proper identification of foreign maids. There is not even a thumbprint, and sometimes not even a signature nor even a surname for proper identification. Are background checks conducted to ensure the foreign maids we bring in have no criminal records or mental history? What procedures are in place to ensure there is no recurrence of this tragedy? The answer is- there are none.

I cannot bring my sister back to life, and nothing will alleviate the pain, grief and shock of losing a beloved sister in such cruel circumstances .But I write this even as I grieve, in the hope that no one would have to go through what my family members and I are going through. I know there are many households in Malaysia where foreign maids are left to take charge of vulnerable and defenseless persons – the elderly and incapacitated as well as young children.There is a critical and urgent need to address all the weaknesses and deficiencies in our existing system relating to the employment of foreign maids. Procedures and mechanisms of proper identification, stringent vetting of backgrounds, a tracking mechanism to ensure blacklisted foreign maids are denied entry will ensure a much needed measure of protection to employers and their charges. This is especially crucial in the case of foreign maids, because unlike other categories of foreign workers, they are brought to live into our homes and therein lies our vulnerability.

My sister would not have suffered such an unspeakable fate had there been such procedures in place .So who should bear responsibility for her cruel death? The ‘prime suspect’ who wielded the death blows or the authorities for their lackadaisical attitude in perpetuating a ‘system’ that gives scant if any protection to employers by allowing such ‘persons’ to take employment in our households ? It is too late to save my sister, but not for other vulnerable households. I implore all Malaysians to join me in appealing to the relevant authorities, particularly Immigration, and the Home Ministry to take urgent action to protect our households. Let us not delay any further for inaction or apathy on our parts may cost the loss of another beloved life or lives.

In conclusion let me ask a chilling question? How sure are you that the new foreign maid you are bringing into your home is not the abovementioned ‘prime suspect’ or someone like her? Sleep on it-that is, if you can.

Rahmah Sahamid


This is not just a letter to the editor but an urgent appeal to the Ministry of Home Affairs to look into this matter. Puan Rahmah’s letter is self-explanatory — while Malaysians are also guilty of abusing foreign maids, we must monitor maids that are abusive and in extreme cases, murderous.

Please join me in this forum to offer condolences and to send this urgent message to the relevant authorities, concerning a matter of national interest. This is an urgent mater to us as we leave home daily selling our labour to the State.

Alfatihah to Puan Habnah. My deepest condolences to Puan Rahmah Sahamid and her family. My appeal to the Home MInister — act now!

(Puan Rahmah Sahamid is an extraordinary teacher who has deeply impacted me in my love for the English Language and is a major influence in my life as an educator. She is amongst the best English teachers I have been blessed with, and had touched the lives of thousands others — sincerely, Azly Rahman. )

  1. #1 by novice101 on Monday, 5 May 2008 - 9:18 pm

    Puan Rahmah, our sympathies and thoughts go out to you and your family!

  2. #2 by ALtPJK on Monday, 5 May 2008 - 9:28 pm

    This sad episode should strike a chord of concern to most if not all households which employ foreign maids to care either for their young or elderly.
    While this is an extreme case involving a murder, surely it is not the first nor will it be the last of plights among Malaysian families regarding their safety having foreign maids in confines of their homes. As the letter had alluded, many questions should really be pointed to the authorities involved in the long chain of facilitating entry of foreign maid into Malaysia.
    Many would feel the word ‘lackadaisical’ really sums up the attitude of these authorities. Considering a hefty sum of money required upfront relative to the on-going wages of the maid and the resultant products that appear one’s ’employee’, one would be left to feel that a good portion of this money had perhaps gone to line the some pockets.
    Sadly, in the land where other ‘pocket-lining’ cases are more urgently required to be investigated, exposed and brought to justice, this one is far down the line and unlikely to benefit from any escalation of priority.
    But as the author had implored, we hope YBs on both sides of the political divide can help push this issue to the forefront.

  3. #3 by minah on Monday, 5 May 2008 - 10:26 pm

    Al fatihah. Sad. The price we have to pay for the convenience. The lackadasical attitude of the authorities must stop. Its time to step up on the securities concerning foreign maids. All abusing parties- the agents, the maids, or the employer must be put on stringent rules and regulation. Shame on you, government of Malaysia.

  4. #4 by melurian on Monday, 5 May 2008 - 10:43 pm

    that’s why i told myself if i’m rich i would never hire maids, esp from indon. what makes you think they are really honest and look after your household wholeheartedly. you never know what are their background they come from!

    speaking of crime, there’s recent murder kidnap case. so many kidnap, so many murder, malaysia memang “challenging” place to live in, thanks to our honorably AAB screw it for 4 yrs, and screw another 4 yrs again…….

  5. #5 by insecticide on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 12:10 am

    Sorry for the innocent lives! Crime happen everyday & everywhere-murder, thief, rape, etc and the gov still saying that M’sia is a safe country. Ask them to go out on their own without any police/guard protection, then they will experience it on themself. The gov esp the police do nothing to control these foreign worker and our resident suffered.

  6. #6 by raven77 on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 1:08 am

    This is sad. Human rights for foreign workers? Try working in Saudi and Kuwait and see what sought of human rights you get…….today….after reading this post I will support the Saudi’s anytime.

    This is a tough world….but Malaysia is just not organised and tough enough…..foreigners here have more leeway than Malaysians….they can slip in and out of the country anytime while Malaysians are just stopped at the KLIA for being blacklisted by some political authority…..who does this country belong too???……Not to Malaysians anymore I am afraid…..we may have lost this country……because Malaysians, like their Prime Minister….may have woken up too late…..

  7. #7 by xplora on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 4:37 am

    Nowadays these foreigner come here and they can do whatever they want including pickpocket, break-in house etc. or even scold you on the road. Nowadays Kuala Lumpur City Center (near pudu bus stop) is their hometown more than our Malaysia hometown :D lolzzz.

  8. #8 by lakilompat on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 8:50 am

    Already told u guys, there will be rampant goldsmith and bank robbery heist. Also the murder case, crime rate will be higher compare when BN 2/3 majority time. Now these ppl. have to resort to murder, robbery etc.

  9. #9 by seage on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 8:53 am

    My condolences to you and your family puan Rahmah. The slogan that ripped through our mind during the GE12 should apply to this case as well i.e. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! For those who had employed foreign maids before may have experienced horrendous acts by these so-called ‘person’. My aunts and uncles employed an indonesian maid to take care of my late grandma. This maid abuse my grandma… yeap, not that we abuse her, but she abused my grandma. After sending her away, she took with her most of my grandma’s jewellery, my aunts money and event have funny ritualistic gadgets (looked like some kinda hex) under her bed with both my grandparents photos on it. Yes, we’ve checked her belongings during her last day and I don’t think they are that stupid to keep it in their luggage.

    My in laws employed 2 indonesian maids, they conveniently took plenty of valuables with them. A neighbour of my in laws had it even worse. The maid would pass motion and dried up her stools (I don’t know how many days worth of stool) under the sun. Everyday, while she cooks a meal, she would drop some of these extra ‘secret seasoning’, which has been grounded to powder into the dish (of course, she would have reserved some for her own consumption before these ‘seasonings’). After being deported back to Indonesia, she gave her employer a call and said something like “Hi Mr. A, this is Siti. Just call you to ask whether you liked my cookings. If you go under my bed right now, you will fin a MILO can and if you open it, you will find some surprise. I added these ‘rempah’ to make the meal better. Hope you enjoy your meal, bye!”. The neighbour then looked under the bed, opened the MILO can and lo and behold… dry poo powder!

    Many may say that the maid are ill-treated. Come on! We are not some uncivilized barbarians. Those that can afford maids usually, I said USUALLY, are better off, that’s why they have maids. Plus, Malaysians are not monsters. My in laws treated the maids like our own family. They eat what we eat be it good or bad. How many maids can proudly say that they sit in the same table eating with their employers? how many can say the had tasted one of the most expensive chocolates ‘godiva’ during their employment? In short, these maids are mostly ingrates!

    The authority really should treat us malaysians more like malaysians than treating these foreign ingrates as one of their own!

  10. #10 by jc on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 10:46 am

    My sincere condolence, Puan Rahmah. We are victims of a weak government. Just look at Singapore. Hope things change for the better in time to come.

  11. #11 by wag-the-dog on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 1:09 pm

    Who Is This Towering Malaysian RPK – Background

  12. #12 by badak on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 1:35 pm

    Who is to blame for this,We all should take tha blame.When things was good for us before the 1997 melt down.We did not make any noise when this people form Indonesia started coming in . Why because we wanted cheap labour from washing our cloths to building our houses.
    The goverment is saying that we Malaysia are lazy thats why we need this people. But are we ,Why employ Malaysians went you can employ foreign labour for half the salary .The best part is. Don,t pay them at all when they make noise just give a call to RELA ,they come and take them away no question ask.

  13. #13 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 3:44 pm

    The issue of migrant workers is a difficult one everywhere but when we have a large poor rural population willing to work just as cheap BUT we still have 3 million foreign workers here, the issue is not simply poor enforcement but really the policies is at fault.

    At the core of this problem begins with our twin evil of NEP and corruption. Attempts to get around the policies is twarted at most turns by these terrible twin. Which Indonesian don’t want to come here with the chance that their children can become the MB of Selangor while our own citizens pay the price for their mediocrity? Every foreign workers that get recruited rightly or wrongly, some crony is getting a piece of it. Its too tempting a pie not to take it like Genting’s or the betting companies money…

    Any attempt to stem of this gravy train, someone will find a way to make money of it unless the will is there to stem out entitlement and corruption TOGETHER. and it must be together or it will not work because how do you tell if its corruption or entitlement in the first place?

    No the problem digs much deeper to the core is our most debated national agendas and policies..

  14. #14 by Loh on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 8:05 pm

    The households which employed foreign maids paid a big sum to agents. What services have they provided for collecting those fees?

  15. #15 by Samson on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 - 11:37 pm

    So to the current ruling government of Malaysia…

    Are you still proud to say we have the best systems to run the country?

    Are you not ashamed to still get paid handsomely for the lousy service you rendered to the rakyat?


  16. #16 by susanne on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 3:48 am

    May God rest her soul!

  17. #17 by bernadette on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 3:55 am

    Oh dear!!

  18. #18 by Kathy on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 7:08 am

    My condolences. It is true – when somethings happen to Malaysian citizens that are caused by Indonesian maids, the authorities seem to lack the drive to do something about it. When the Indonesian maid appears to be the “victim” the authorities rushed to “help” the maid in various forms – like the on-going case that is being reported in the newspapers.

    It is very sad that we have such poor vetting procedures and health screening system as compared to our neighbour down south. The relevant authorities need to start thinking the security and safety of our countrymen instead of the benefits that they are getting from all these high agency fees.

  19. #20 by megaman on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 12:30 pm

    For any country in the world only two types of foreign talents or workers are desirable:

    a) The highly educated and highly valued foreign TALENT.

    b) The lowly educated and unskilled but obedient and hardworking foreign WORKER who are willing to work hard in undesirable positions and follow the law.

    The most undesirable foreign elements:

    a) Illegal immigrants or unregistered foreign workers

    b) Criminals or foreign terrorists.

    Whether we can get the best in while keeping the worst out depends on one single factor.

    The SECURITY of our BORDERS.

    Looking at our police force and the immigration. Sigh *shake head*

  20. #21 by lakilompat on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 12:34 pm


    In Malaysia, it’s the $$$ effect. The govt. $$$ face, the politicians $$$, the NGOs $$$, the police $$$, and who else, we have billionaires Tun, billionaires PL family.

    If the leader is corrupt the grassroots will be even worst.

  21. #22 by ADAM YONG IBNI ABDULLAH on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 2:32 pm

    dear moderator.

    i am unable access to rpk charges.

  22. #23 by tc on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 2:59 pm

    My deepest condolence to Puan Rahmah and all family members.
    Action will only be taken by the appropriate authorities if bad events happen to their loved ones.Otherwise it is only “Biasa la”for the common citizens.

  23. #24 by madmix on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 5:02 pm

    Maybe employers can take some measures:
    1. take clear photos of the employee from various angles
    2. take finger prints of employee
    3. keep copies of above in safe place with a few people.
    of course this is not fool proof as Indonesia is a big country, but publication of photos may flush out suspect. Better than nothing to work with in the first place.

  24. #25 by ADAM YONG IBNI ABDULLAH on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 - 5:51 pm



    is there something wrong with the blog or something wrong with my login. someone please advice and assist.

  25. #26 by lakilompat on Friday, 9 May 2008 - 12:01 pm

    Dear ADAM,
    I think that articles’ comments are full, it is a good method to prevent and minimized the spam threads.

    Dear tc,
    In Malaysia, childrens are forced to become prostitutes, poor are becoming poorer. Govt. don’t bother to develop infrastructure, keep giving excuse they’ve no money while they lived like little Napoleans with plenty to reap from mega projects awarded by their BN govt.

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