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“Look, my hand like this, cannot move,” said Moriddul. His fingers could move, but he couldn’t flex or rotate his wrist.
“When did this happen?” your writer asked him.
October 2011, he said.
He was a “supplied worker”, seconded by his boss to another contractor’s construction site. On the fateful day, he was collecting tools at the end of a work shift several stories up in an unfinished building. Walking on a steel plank that had not been properly secured to the scaffolding, the plank gave way suddenly, and he fell about two metres to the lower level of the scaffolding. All this took place about 25 metres above the ground. He was lucky he had not fallen all the way.
Unfortunately, in trying to break his fall with his hands, he hurt both wrists. One was sprained, the other, as he would later learn, was fractured. His back and knee also hurt.
There seemed to be no one else around; the rest of the crew had left the building and were somewhere at the work site gate waiting for transport. Painfully, Moriddul made his own way down, calling out to the safety officer when he was within distance.
“Do you want to go to hospital?” the safety officer asked him.
“I don’t know,” said Moriddul. “See how. If tomorrow, I still pain, I tell you.”
And so he joined the rest in the back of a lorry to go back to the dormitory.
While on the road, his friend’s mobile phone rang. It was the safety officer wanting to speak to Moriddul. “Come back to the office,” the safety officer said. But since the lorry was already close to the dormitory, it was decided that the safety officer would send a car to fetch Moriddul from the dorm instead.
An hour later, the car arrived and in it was the safety supervisor (the safety officer’s superior). Moriddul got in and they went to a general practitioner’s clinic.
Moriddul recalled: “The doctor there said, ‘I cannot give you any treatment because it is serious. You must go to hospital emergency. I will give you a letter.'” On news that he needed to get to a hospital, the safety supervisor (who, like the safety officer, was employed by the main contractor) rang Moriddul’s employer.
That evening however, apparently on his employer’s instructions, he was not sent to the hospital as directed by the doctor. Instead, he was sent back to the dorm. The following morning, Moriddul was summoned to his boss’ office, where the letter written by the general practitioner was taken away from him. He was then sent to a different general practitioner in the Little India area.
According to Moriddul, this other doctor didn’t want to hear details from him. “He say to me, ‘You don’t say about your problem.’ And then he talk to my boss only.
“After that, he give me injection in my back.” Moriddul believed it was a pain killer.
Every day, for the next seven days, his boss brought him back to the clinic in Little India, and the Moriddul was given a daily injection. “But after seven days, I feel my hand and back still very pain,” he said to TWC2, “and so I go to Geylang East Polyclinic myself.” He had to pay over $100.
“The doctor at the polyclinic give me X-ray and say to me my hand have fracture and back also have problem. He refer me to Singapore General Hospital.”
At SGH, an operation was scheduled for three days later, and Moriddul was given a form, which he was asked to pass to his employer in order for the employer to furnish a guarantee for the treatment. Under Singapore law, an employer is responsible for any medical treatment a foreign worker needs. But as with so many cases who come to TWC2 for help, the employer snatched the form from him the next day when he called at the office, and refused to provide the guarantee as required. Moriddul was scolded for seeking treatment by himself.
Three days later, the operation date came and went with no guarantee in sight. The surgery was not carried out.
Realising that he had to take matters into his own hands, Moriddul started asking around and was directed to the Ministry of Manpower where he lodged a complaint a few more days later.
Six months on, the operation had still not been carried out. Moriddul was also running out of money since he had been laid off after his injury. He was behind in his rent for a filthy bedspace in a Little India tenement and the landlord was threatening to throw him and his possessions out.
Desperate, he started looking for a job. It would be illegal, since he was by now on a Special Pass, a condition of which was that he should not work, but what choice did he have? His employer, who was required by law to provide medical care and cover “upkeep” expenses, was providing neither. Notwithstanding numerous letters written by TWC2 to the Ministry of Manpower to urge stronger reminders to the employer to fulfill his obligations, nothing was happening. So, despite his injury, Moriddul found a job and started work.
On the very first day on the job, he was caught by the police. According to him, his previous employer was the one who called the police. Moriddul couldn’t explain how the employer knew where he was seeking new work. “I think they send someone looking at me all the time,” he said, hard though that may be to believe.
However it had happened, things were much worse now. He was put into a cell for the night. Would he be deported in the morning?
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