URGENT APPEAL BY WOMEN’S AID ORGANISATION (WAO)
4 November 2000
WAO seeks your support and endorsement on this urgent statement in connection with the Raid on WAO by Immigration.
Besides the endorsement, we will be obliged if you could attend the joint press conference held by WAO, to explain what actually happened on that 1 November 2000 when 11 officials conducted a raid and took away 3 Indonesian domestic workers who are victims of rape and abuse.
Press conference details
Monday 6th November
At 2. 30 p.m.
At La Salle Hall, Section 5/15B, Off Jalan Gasing
Contact Rozana or Annie at WAO – 79563488/ 79575068
Please send by fax to 79563237 the following endorsement
Urgent statement by Women’s Aid Organisation
6 November 2000
Women’s Aid Organisation, established in 1982 has been providing shelter and counselling for battered women and their children, destitute women, single mothers and abused domestic workers. WAO also plays an advocacy role in the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
WAO is registered under the Registrar of Societies and its Refuge is gazetted by Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (Welfare) as a “Tempat Selamat” (Safe House) under the Domestic Violence Act 1994. It has tax exemption status.
At the core of our services and advocacy is the Refuge and Child Care Centre Services. The Refuge has one important policy that it must remain a secure, safe and confidential home where women who want to free themselves from violence know that they are secure from their abusive perpetrators. WAO offers confidentiality to women; no information about a woman is given to anyone outside of WAO without her informed and expressed consent.
Every visitor has to make a prior appointment as a precaution so that WAO staff can verify the identity and not risk the safety of the women and children. We have a strict policy of no male visitors unless there is a prior arrangement and appointment.
All agencies, including Police, Welfare, Hospitals and NGOS have respected and understood this policy and make prior appointments or call the staff or residents to their office if they need any information or assistance. WAO has built up over 16 years a rapport and a good working relationship with the Police, Welfare, Hospitals, Immigration, the Women’s Affairs Department, The Ministry of National Unity Social Development and NGOs who have come to depend on WAO Refuge services for abused women and children.
The provision of this urgent service to women in crisis is complementary if not essential to the government’s and civil society’s vision of a caring society. WAO works very hard to raise much-needed funds to keep the Refuge doors open. Furthermore the government has acknowledged time and time again that women’s groups like WAO play a vital role in providing professional services for abused women and children.
Thus, the raid by Immigration officials on WAO on 1 November 2000 came as a total shock. This raid is a breach of trust and ethics. Furthermore the non – professional and unruly behavior of the officials is appalling and raises many concerns.
The events were as follows:
On 1 November 2000 at 2.45 p.m. 11 Immigration officials (3 women and 8 men) turned up at the WAO Refuge and demanded that they be allowed to enter or they will break the gates. They were led by Puan Normah binti Mohammad, Enforcement Division, and Tengku Amin, Timbalan Pengarah, Pekerja Asing (Foreign Wokers).
They ordered WAO staff to line up the residents with their passports outside in the porch. WAO staff repeatedly explained to officials that this will scare the children, is highly unnecessary and will cooperate in a peaceful and professional manner. WAO staff informed the officials that only the women officials could enter and we will bring the women to the living room.
Throughout the whole operation there was constant shouting and intimidation and a refusal to talk through peacefully and to disclose the reason for the raid.
The officials demanded that every room be opened and did not adhere to our plea that this is an invasion of privacy they could tell us what and who are they are looking for.
Although we kept explaining that men are not allowed into the Refuge the men officials went into every room where women and children were resting.
Immigration officials threatened to handcuff WAO staff when we told them we cannot open the gates as men are not allowed into a women’s shelter, the same threat was directed at staff when asking for the name of one male immigration official who was doing quite a lot of the shouting.
When WAO staff insisted that the photographer should not take photos of children who were having their afternoon nap, the photographer made a rude gesture with his hands.
An official holding handcuffs ordered a WAO social worker not to answer nor make calls although the social worker explained that it is her duty to respond to the counselling telephone line.
One Immigration official went to the back of the garden of the house and he struck up a conversation through the window with 3 children asking them where their mother and father were, and when will they be returning to their home. Presently one of the children is undergoing counselling for she is very disturbed by the intrusion.
In one instance after 2 women Immigration officials had checked a Malaysian domestic violence victim’s identity card, an Immigration officer re – entered her room and insisted on seeing her Malaysian birth certificate. He demanded that we make a photostat copy of the documents and threatened to take them away if we do not make the copies for him.
Three of the WAO residents who were Indonesian domestic workers who were referred by Police a few months ago were asked for their passports. WAO staff explained that while one has her passport the other two did not have them as they were being held by their perpetrators as verified by several documents including letters from the Petaling Jaya Police requesting shelter from WAO for the Indonesian women.
The Immigration was not interested in looking at the documents produced by WAO and insisted that the 3 women be taken away in their van and for WAO staff to get into the van too. WAO staff insisted that they would follow with the documents and a lawyer in their own vehicle.
One official showed a photo of one of our residents Lilis Arumiyati to the 3 Indonesian women, and asked if Lilis lives at WAO and demanded her whereabouts, WAO informed him that Lilis was at a friend’s house and that we could give him the contact numbers of Lilis’s lawyer. Lilis is presently pursuing a civil suit demanding for compensation from her employer and the employer’s father for back salary, alleged abuse of Lilis and maintenance for her 8 month old baby who is an offspring from an alleged rape by the employer’s father.
WAO went to the Immigration Department at Pusat Damansara, where they took the 3 women and the fourth resident Lilis who was eventually picked up from her friend’ s house.
After much negotiation and intervention by lawyers and WAO staff the 4 women were released.
Lilis and her 8-month baby was the first to be released as she had a special pass on her. It remains an unanswered question as to why they were looking for Lilis when Immigration should have on record the issuance of this special pass valid until 4 November 2000.
However WAO and lawyers had five hours of negotiations from 3.40 – 10.30 p.m. to release the 3 women. Immigration officials could not tell WAO definitely what time or how long it will take to finish their investigations, they insisted the women remain the night there for further investigations although WAO staff pleaded that they were victims of abuse and produced again the relevant documents. WAO also managed to get one police Investigation Officer (AIO) of one of the cases to speak to an Immigration official by hand phone.
Immigration did allow one WAO staff to see the women to assure them that WAO will remain at Immigration until they are released. The 3 women were released at 10.30 p.m. with special passes that cost RM 20 per pass.
Based on the above events, WAO would like a clarification and explanation on the following:
- An explanation to WAO and the public on what basis did the Immigration conduct the raid, the nature of the complaint they received and as to whether Immigration did prior investigation to see if the complainant did not have any vested interest and mischievous intent.
- Explain why Immigration was looking for Lilis Arumiyati an Indonesian domestic worker and picked her up with her 8 month old baby when Lilis was issued her special pass on 4 October valid into 4 November 2000, as she has a pending court case.
- Explain why the documents produced by WAO were insufficient, being police cases they could have spared the trauma of hauling abused victims to face a five-hour ordeal at the Immigration office.
- Clarify Immigration and Police procedures when a foreign worker abuse case comes under police investigation, what immediate arrangements are made by both agencies to allow the women to remain in the country to facilitate investigations.
- Consider that as part of investigation protocols of any complaint directed at WAO, that part of the process must include speaking to the Executive Committee, trustees, and/or senior staff first.
- Make a public apology to WAO for their non-professional behavior
This raid on a women’s organisation has serious repercussions and implications on other shelters run by women’s organisations throughout the country. WE urge the Ministry of Home Affairs and related agencies to:
- To recognize the role of NGOs shelters and respect its policy of confidentiality and safety for abused women and children.
- Assure that a raid of this nature will not be conducted against gazetted shelters, which are operating under the provisions of the law.
- Disclose to the public on principle of transparency and accountability what are the procedures to investigating a complaint before conducting a raid.
- Provide checks and balances so that Immigration officials do not abuse their power.
- Give an assurance that the immigration officials will conduct themselves a professional and non-intimidating manner and to use their professional discretion.
Women’s Aid Organisation
6 November 2000.