‘More time’ request shot down for local who failed to pay wages

|     Fadley Faisal     |

AN INDIVIDUAL accused of failing to pay his domestic helper’s salaries and air ticket expenses has had his plea to have his fine reduced and a request for more time to repay it, rejected by the High Court.

Chief Justice Dato Paduka Steven Chong in providing his reason for the decision against the defendant, Hamzah bin Haji Yahya, said that “allowing a reduction in the fine or giving more time to pay it would be detrimental to the public interest”.

Hamzah had been ordered to settle a fine of BND18,600, or serve 62 weeks’ jail in default of payment, and pay BND6,850 to his domestic helper in compensation, or serve 16 weeks’ jail in default.

In mitigation, Hamzah cited financial difficulties as the reason he could not pay his domestic helper’s salary and airfare, pointing out that he works as a gardener, which only pays him BND650 a month. He also has to support his wife and six children.

He offered to pay the fine and compensation amount in BND100 monthly instalments, saying that a prison sentence “would cause hardship to his family.”

The court however took a firm stance against the defendant and declined his plea, reasoning that it needs to send a strong signal that mistreatment of foreign domestic helpers will result in serious consequences, with more severe punishments to be expected.

It stated that foreign domestic helpers, working within the confines of their employers’ homes, away from their own families and friends, are wholly dependent on their employers for food and lodging.

The court added that such cases of domestic helper mistreatment can tarnish the bilateral relations between Brunei and the workers’ countries of origin, and harm Brunei’s international reputation.

DPP Farhanah binti Pehin Dato Haji Suhaili represented the Public Prosecutor as respondent.