By Nadirah H. Rodzi and Hidir Reduan
New Straits Times
Friday, Feb 22, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR - The Indonesian embassy has expressed regret that they were not immediately informed of the arrest of an Indonesian maid who was recently found guilty of attempted murder of a 4-month-old boy.
Indonesian embassy social and cultural affairs minister-counsellor Suryana Sastradiredja said although they respected Malaysian laws, they felt that they should have been informed as soon as the arrest was made as proper legal assistance could have been provided to the maid.
Yuliana, 24, from Kampung Binjai, Medan, was unrepresented when she was charged at the Kuantan Sessions Court on Tuesday.
She pleaded guilty to attempted murder and physical abuse of Mohamed Hareez Mohamed Zamri at his parents' house in Lorong Bukit Setongkol, Kuantan, at 7.45am on Feb 15.
Yuliana, a mother of two, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for the first offence and another five years for the second offence.
Suryana said the embassy only knew of the case from newspaper reports on Monday.
"We received permission to visit Yuliana at the Kuantan police headquarters the following day, but by the time embassy officials reached there, the maid had already been taken to court," Suryana said.
"We will now appoint a lawyer for Yuliana and file an appeal against the sentence.
"We are not looking to set the maid free but rather to appeal for leniency."
Suryana also claimed that they were not given time and opportunity to question the maid.
He also revealed that the hiring of Yuliana by her employer went against the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Malaysia and Indonesia on the hiring of maids.
"Although Yuliana came to Malaysia legally, her employer had bypassed the Indonesian Embassy and hired her directly from an agency in Indonesia.
"This makes her employment here illegal.
"It is important to get the embassy's consent because we would like our domestic workers to undergo 200 hours of training as well as medical and psychological tests to determine if they are fit to work here.
"Before we give the green light, we need to know the person's background. This is to minimise cases like this from happening," he said.
Suryana added that checks also revealed that Yuliana had initially refused to work in Malaysia but was later persuaded by the agency in Indonesia.
"Yuliana was caught in the middle. She had to work in Malaysia to pay off the agency which had already paid for her medical tests and flight," he said.
In an immediate response, Kuantan police chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Jasmani Yusoff said police had informed Interpol of the case as it was part of the standard operating procedure.
"Interpol will normally alert the respective embassies which would then provide the assistance to the accused."
He admitted that the embassy officials had only met Yuliana in Kuantan after she was charged and before she was sent to Bentong prison.
Jasmani said the deputy public prosecutor's office had advised police that the suspect be charged on Tuesday as the case was of public interest and had been highlighted by the media.
The Pahang Bar Council, meanwhile, said foreigners charged in Malaysian courts were not automatically assigned lawyers and it was up to their respective embassies to get them legal representation.
State Bar Council chairman Hon Kai Ping said under Malaysian law, only citizens could be assigned a lawyer to represent them in proceedings.
"Even then, it's only applicable if the accused is charged with committing an offence punishable with the death sentence like murder and drug trafficking.
"The Legal Aid Bureau only offers free legal assistance to locals facing criminal charges, but we can make an exception for foreigners accused of a crime if representatives from their respective embassies seek our help.
"In Yuliana's case, nobody from the Indonesian embassy sought our assistance to provide her legal representation."
Hon added that prior to this, the Indonesian embassy had at times approached the Bar Council to seek legal representation for Indonesians facing criminal court proceedings. Additional reporting by M. Hamzah Jamaludin