The Online Citizen

Worker assaulted by employer outside MOM building, and possibly to be repatriated

May 15
22:50 2009

Andrew Loh

Note: The following report has been edited to reflect more accurately what had transpired in the case of Asmad Kadir. This is because of clarification the writer has obtained with his sources.

Asmad Kadir (not his real name), who is owed some S$2,100 for 5-months’ work as a labourer, asked to meet with his employer at the Ministry of Manpower building on 14 May.  His employer had wanted to meet with him at his (the employer’s) office. However, having been assaulted previously at the office (see story below), Asmad asked for the meeting to be held at MOM instead.

At that designated time on Thursday, 14 May, after having arrived at the MOM’s building at Havelock Road, he called his employer’s brother, who goes by the name of Ganesh.  Asmad was told to come out of the building and meet with Ganesh. Asmad refused. Ganesh tried to coax Asmad into agreeing by promising Asmad that if he came out and met him, he would pay Asmad the entire amount owed to him.

An hour of negotiation ensued which lasted till 6pm, when the MOM building was to be closed. Asmad then had no choice but to go out and meet with Ganesh. There, Ganesh and another man, Biji,  insisted that Asmad signed the receipt for the money first before they paid him. Asmad told them he would not and that he will only sign after he has received the money. They got into a heated argument. The two men then seemed to relent and asked that they proceeded to a side street where Asmad will be issued a receipt.  “I feared for my safety,” Asmad said, “but I still went to the location with them.”

When they arrived at the new location, Ganesh and Biji  tried to force Asmad into a microvan by manhandling him. In the scuffle, Ganesh punched him, causing his lips to bleed. Biji grabbed the right side of his face. In the struggle, Asmad’s shirt was torn and he managed to free himself and fled. “This is not the first time Ganesh has assaulted me,” Asmad said in the police report he lodged against his employer’s brother.

Asmad Kadir, 28, has been working with Ocean Marine Engineering in Singapore since 2007. In February this year, he asked for the five months’ worth of salary owed to him to be paid.

He was called up to his employer’s office to discuss the issue. Asmad explained to his employer that his family back in Bangladesh needed the money urgently. In the course of the discussion, his employer slapped him across his left ear three times. “After I was slapped, I lost consciousness for a few minutes,” Asmad said in a separate police report he has made. His employer then asked him to go back to the dormitory to rest. Later that day, he felt “a lot of pain” in his left ear and called his employer, who promised to bring him to a doctor the next day after work. His employer did not do so.

It was only one week later, on 5 March, that Asmad himself went to see the doctor. He was given two days’ medical leave. When he showed the certificate to his employer, he did not believe the certificate was geuine. Subsequently, his employer gave him some ear drops and told him to go back to the dormitory to rest – but that he would have to report for work the next day.

Asmad’s problems, however, do not end there.

MOM’s dispute settlement

On 13 April, in a salary dispute mediation session overseen by MOM between Asmad and his employer, it was agreed that Asmad’s employer would pay him half of the salary owed and the other half “upon repatriation”, as stated in the agreement. However, till date, Asmad said he has been paid only S$300 out of the S$2,100 he is owed.

Because his work permit has been cancelled, and he is still awaiting full compensation and the outcome of the two police reports, Asmad needed to obtain a Special Pass which would allow him to remain in Singapore until these are resolved. On 15 May, he approached MOM, with all the documents he has, including the two police reports.

However, the MOM officer refused to look at the documents. She told Asmad that he would have to go to Changi airport where an employee of the Insurance Company and his employer were waiting for him to pay his full outstanding salary and to repatriate him. Asmad also said the officer said he had to “go home”.  Asmad can only speak a smattering of very simple English words and did not fully understand what the officer had said. He did not want to go to the airport as he was afraid that his employer would not pay him the full amount and repatriate him.

Without the Special Pass, Asmad is now considered an overstayer and could be forcibly repatriated anytime by the authorities.

As for the police report made  by Asmad on 14 May, the police has notified him that “preliminary inquiries into your police report is completed and it discloses an offence under Section 323 of the Penal Code… which is a non-seizable offence.”

Thus, in order for the police to proceed with further actions, Asmad would need to lodge a Magistrate’s Complaint at the Subordinate Courts. The Magistrate would then order the police to act as she sees fit.

Asmad may not get a chance to do so without a Special Pass.

He too will have to forfeit the salary still owed to him.

Asmad is now being taken care of by aid workers.

Opinion:

There are several serious questions raised in Asmad’s case.

  1. MOM should take a very serious view that physical assault on employees by employers and their henchmen can happen right at its doorsteps.
  2. According to what Asmad told The Online Citizen, it seems that he was a victim of an attempted kidnapping. This is a very serious offence under Singapore law and should be treated as such.
  3. MOM should have staff who are proficient in the native languages of foreign workers who approach them. If the frontline staff is not proficient in these, they should be told to refer such workers to officers who are in a better position to help, instead of dismissing workers’ complaints.

If Asmad is forcibly repatriated on a technicality – because he does not have a Special Pass – it would signal to employers that such ill-treatment and abuse of foreign workers are tolerated by the authorities. And employers will be emboldened to continue to do so.

Asmad wants to return to his family in Bangladesh.

It is not unreasonable for him to expect to be paid for the work he has done before doing so.

Asmad still has hearing problems in his left ear.

——

  • singapoor

    well singapore have no laws to prevent such abuses. until there are such laws and until the authorities enforce such laws, these incidents will continue…

  • bruce lee

    Did any MP get assaulted in the scuffle???
    NO???
    If not, then too bad…no one will be charged since it is a private matter…

  • Concerned Singaporean

    this is so ridiculous. What goes around will come around. If MOM doesn’t do anything about it, Singapore’s reputation will suffer ultimately. We believe in fairness isn’t it? Singaporeans cannot become a country that exploits others!

  • whyamibornasingkee

    they do not even have a decent law or any respect for her own fellow citizens. what do u want for foreigner talents? but it is really bad karma luring these foreign victims here, exploited them and once they outlived their usefulness, kick them home. that is really bad.

  • RW

    I find the title very misleading… for a moment i thought the MOM officers did the act and then force him home. I’m wondering if TOC deliberately slant the title as such.. (technically correct, but misleading in a sensational way!)

    this was very unfortunate and like the maid abuse cases, it shows how some singaporeans are still lacking in humanity.

    btw, if TOC is still in contact with this worker, you can help him to press for a special pass. According to the rules, if he has a dispute settlement on-going, he should be given a special pass. However if he has agreed to the settlement, as it is suggested in your account (i.e. closed), then it will be more tricky. I’m no lawyer, but probably will have to argue that the employer has renegade on the agreement by not even paying half the salary. Maybe that might help?

  • theonlinecitizen

    RW,

    There’s no intention to mislead with the title.

    Asmad’s employer has not kept to the agreement of paying him his salary.

  • theonlinehero

    We should have a law that requires all employers to inform MOM that they are withholding employees’ salaries within a grace period of 5 weeks. Failure to adhere to this law will result in a penalty fine of twice as much as the salary held or $2000 if the former is less than $2000.

  • TrueBlood Singapore

    Their are few type of Foreign Talents

    Work Permit $500 – Balag Use and Depose (Construction Marine)
    S – Pass $1800 – Semi Professional to be used and dispose later
    E – Pass >$2500 – Full pledge Professional who are more cunning.
    If they reach Manager level,
    Indian will used Indians. (Major Bank like DBS)
    Malaysia will used Malaysian, (lot of Manufacturing Comps)
    Philphin0 will used Philiphino (Stats ChipPac etc)
    Chinese will used Chinese ( Taiwanese UMC etc)

    Singaporean bettrer go PAP comp else you are competiting will these type of ppl

  • thinktok

    Yes indeed I do find the caption can mislead. If a worker is lured to MOM it must be by MOM or else what is the use of using MOM. Also only MOM can repatriate so again it is a MOM design. Similarly the assault can be arranged by MOM.

    This is all very dangerous innuendo. Not saying but say a lot.

    Do be careful.

  • RW

    i see that TOC has taken the feedback and changed the title to better reflect the situation. A gd example of how the bloggersphere can be mature and correct itself! :)

  • Spirit-centred

    This should be treated as a case of occupational terrorism, the ISA law should be activated to put the suspected employer terrorist into Whitley Camp.

  • BD

    Wow, the employers are a bunch of thugs. The police should investigate the company records and the personal connections of the employers. I will not be shocked if there is significant accounting fraud, corruption or malpractice on the company’s part. Additionally I would not be surprised if the employers have some underworld connections. Who else would even consider threatening, assaulting and attempting to kidnap an employee in the vicinity of a government building?

  • Thinktok

    Thank you TOC for the speed of the change. I think the tile is more accurate now.

    Foreign workers once in Singapore should be protected. The employer in this case, if what transpired is true, is definitely unfair and bringing a bad name to Singapore. We are a civilised nation. we do not like others to treat our guest workers badly.

    To me part of the problem is caused by the Govt. We are hiring too many foreign workers esp in the parks and recreation department. Foreign workers are tending our gardens, watering our plants and pruning them to perfection. I see them wasting precious ever so often that I told myself that I have to get used to it. Is there really a need to go for such high standard??

    In a park, surely leaves from the trees will fall. We the public need to lower our expectations too. If every small thing we complain, then the easiest way is to get foreign workers to clean it up.

    Foreign workers are here for the money. It is only fair, but they must be fair to us too. I see one worker using the same mob for the toilet bowls and then the floor then the wall. He is spreading germs all over the place. He may not know or he simply doesn’t care.

    Every monday morning along the beach there are tons of rubbish. I wonder who threw them. I have a notion it is the foreign workers so that their job is secured. If I am wrong and it is the locals who did it then we have a bigger problem.

    Or maybe both!

    Regards

  • mad93

    for god sake, just sue the damn inhuman boss. It was sad that Asmad Kadir need that money urgently for his survival for the family. And his boss show no mercy to him, this kind of people should be jailed. So reckless and pathetic.

  • Angela

    This is really disturbing. Not so much that his employer assaulted him – that is horrible but there are always sick people out there – but that MOM seems to be shirking its duty.

    Workers who earn less than a certain amount per month – I think it’s $2000 – can go to the MOM for salary disputes. It appears that the MOM arranged a mediation session, but what is the use if it doesn’t follow up? Or worse…don’t tell me that they don’t have the ability to follow up, to punish the employer for not abiding by the mediation agreement?

    It also seem WEIRD that the police force can’t arrest someone for assault. Assault is a “non-seizable” offence? What does that mean? That the police can do nothing if someone assaults you? That doesn’t make sense.

    The whole thing doesn’t make sense.

  • Angela

    mad93 : To “sue” means to raise a civil suit against the employer. There is no way that Asmad Kadir has the money to do that. Assault should carry a criminal charge – right? Shouldn’t it??! Or else, what this means is that I can assault you and there is NOTHING you can do about it unless you pay a lawyer to file a suit against the guy.

    That’s $100 for a letter of demand (for compensation? to inform the other party?) and a $3,000 deposit to the law firm for them to file a writ. Average prices.

  • BD

    A non-seizable offence is still a criminal offence. Althought the accused does not have to be arrested, it is still up to the judgement of the police force whether to arrest the accused. An arrest can be made if their is reason to believe a seizable offence had occured (in this case attempted kidnapping) or if the accused is a potential flight risk.

    In the case of a non-seizable offence, the complainant has to make a magistrate’s complaint in the subordinate courts after which the accused will be summoned to court.

    Even if the accused was arrested for a seizable offence, he would be released on bail/bond so the difference is just a few days in jail at most.

  • http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com Dr Huang

    Hi TOC,
    Thanks for highlighting injustice suffered by the most vulnerable in our city-state.
    These hooligans who are mascarading as employers must be exposed and brought to justice.
    Continue to support these victims no matter if they be locals or foreigners.
    We should appreciate those foreigners who are mainly doing the work that Singaporeans are not wiling to do.
    Best wishes

  • patriot

    Singapore is World renown for safety and security as it has a First Class System that include the Rule of Law and Order.

    No local nor foreigner needs to worry as justice will be serve to all in this country, this claim is not only made by locals, i have seen and heard tourists saying the same thing on televisions, in newspapers and in persons from friends, relatives and neighbours.

    Everyone in this country must have faith and trust; no injustice will be left unchecked.

    patriot

  • Angela

    Hi BD,

    Thanks for the clarification. The thing is, doesn’t it cost money to bring a case to the subordinate courts? $50 or so? Why should one have to put up money if you’re the aggrieved party?!

  • loop

    MOM cannot even defend local workers, u expect them to help foreign workers?!

  • http://thebosonicstate.blogspot.com Jackson Tan

    Thanks TOC for the report of the incident, which would’ve otherwise gone unnoticed by many Singaporeans.

    I hope further updates will be posted (and that they will be more positive for Asmad).

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