M'sian diplomat accused of enslaving Sri Lankan maid in US suit

Modified 7 Sep 2016, 1:26 am

A US federal lawsuit alleged that a Malaysian diplomat and her husband treated their Sri Lankan maid "virtually as a slave", according to a report by the New York Post (NYP).

The report, which cited the lawsuit, said the Parimaladevi "Mala" Jeganathan was made to work 15-plus hours a day for no more than US$1.71 per hour, at least when she was paid.

The diplomat, Tamil Arasi Krishnan, and her husband Danish Kumar, also allegedly forbade Parimaladevi from leaving their apartment and threatened her that "something" would be done to her if she did.

The lawsuit said Parimaladevi, who started working for the couple in 2013, was "fearful of venturing outside alone" and claimed she was watched by the Malaysian consulate's security guards and building's doorman.

“It was pretty clear that she was their servant. She wasn’t allowed to leave the house, except to sometimes accompany the family to church,” Parimaladevi's lawyer Anne Li said.

In 2014, the couple also purportedly told Parimaladevi that her visa was "too expensive" to renew and said if she didn't agree to work for them for another three-and-a-half years, she would be sent back to war-ravaged Sri Lanka.

Maid rescued by the FBI

The lawsuit also claimed that Tamil Arasi told the maid that she was a "nobody" and wouldn't be able to find help if something bad happened to her in the US, the New York Post report said.

Parimaladevi was taken away from the apartment, on March 6, 2014, after she sought help from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and was placed in a charity-funded safe house.

According to report, the lawsuit accused the couple of violating laws intended to protect human trafficking victims as well as breaking state and federal labour laws.

It also carried a civil charge that accused Tamil Arasi and Danish of fraud and breach of contract with Parimaladevi. No criminal charge was filed.

Malaysiakini has contacted Wisma Putra for comment and awaiting for its response.

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