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Continued from Part 1.
“Mustafa Plaza,” Manik told the taxi driver. He figured it would be safest there with lots of fellow Bangladehsis around. He might get some help too.
By September 19, just a few days alter, the $50 in his pocket was dwindling fast, and it was obvious there was no way he would find any accommodation without income. Finally, a compatriot advised him to go to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). There was a complaints process there, he was told, something Manik never imagined possible. Given that his knee had been hurt in a workplace accident and not only that the employer had refused to provide hospital care but instead had arranged to have him deported, Manik would surely have good grounds for a formal complaint.
What a shock that visit to MOM would turn out to be.
“The MOM officer, he told me to go back to the company office, because the boss already bought my air ticket,” Manik later told TWC2. Apparently, the civil servant had spoken on the phone with the employer.
The work permit had been cancelled — under present law, employers have total discretion when to cancel work permits — and so the MOM officer replaced it with a Special Pass backdated to the day the work permit was cancelled (September 16, 2011). However, it was only valid for four days, which meant it would expire the day after the visit being made at MOM. The officer warned Manik: “if you don’t go back to your employer, the police will arrest you and punish you.”
Manik thought it terribly unjust. His injury had not been treated and his wages unpaid. His boss was all ready to deport him without attending to his claims, and now, even MOM was threatening him with arrest if he did not submit to injustice.
Seeing the futility of arguing with the MOM officer, Manik just kept quiet. But on leaving the ministry building, he chose to go back to Mustafa Plaza rather than to the company’s office as demanded by MOM.
Further enquiries then led him to Transient Workers Count Too’s free meal programme where he met with Debbie Fordyce, an executive committee member of TWC2. She saw that Manik’s immediate need was to rectify his immigration status. With the expiry of the Special Pass on September 20, he was technically an illegal overstayer and subject to arrest and imprisonment. She quickly wrote emails to more senior officers at MOM explaining the gravity of the situation. Manik was then asked to go back to the ministry where a new Special Pass, for a longer period, was issued to him, but not before bureaucracy took its pound of flesh. He was fined $100 for disobeying the earlier MOM officer’s instructions and lingering in Singapore rather than crawl back to his employer.
Manik had to borrow $100 to pay the fine.
Under TWC2’s care, the situation brightened. Debbie took him into her home so that Manik would have somewhere hygienic to stay. Through TWC2, there was a bit more money and he could go afford to back to Alexandra Hospital for further consultation and tests. A procedure known as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was done and it was decided that an operation was essential. A large blood clot had formed inside the knee as a result of the accident and had to be cleaned out. There were perhaps other repairs needed for the joint to heal correctly.
What a difference it was to the reception he got from Neecare Medical Centre (see Part 1).
But first, there was the question of who would pay for the operation. Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, that responsibility was clearly the employer’s. But even so, the bureaucratic procedures were such that Manik had to obtain an explicit agreement from the employer to cover the cost of the operation and hospitalisation, in the form of a Letter of Guarantee (LOG).
“Long time, my boss do not want to give me an LOG,” Manik told your correspondent. “I have to find a lawyer and ask him to ask my boss for it. So my operation delayed.”
Eventually, an LOG was issued, thus giving the go-ahead for surgery on December 19, 2011.
Would it turn out well? Would Manik ever walk normally again? Or was the injury now too old — it had been 13 months since the worksite accident — that full recovery might not be possible?
To be continued.
TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our