The New Paper, 14 January 2012, reported that the coroner had ruled the death of Bangladeshi worker Md Roni Miya Md Rajaul Karim, 20, was probably one of suicide. His death had been reported in TWC2’s earlier story A life cut tragically short, a brother seeks answers (27 December 2011).

The facts presented at the inquest about Roni’s troubles in the days leading up to his death are similar to that told in our story. The New Paper wrote:

On Oct 25 last year, Mr Md Roni Miya Md Rajaul Karim, 20, was offered a part-time job by a compatriot known only as Pabal.

Mr Md Roni recommended five of his Bangladeshi friends for the job and all of them surrendered their work permits to Pabal.

But Pabal fled with the documents and the job offer turned out to be part of a ruse to dupe foreign workers into parting with their work permits.

Mr Md Roni’s friends blamed him for their losses.

They scolded him and all six men thought that they would be sent home after losing their work permits.

Mr Md Roni was especially distressed as he would be unable to repay the loans he had taken to get here.

He was found hanging with piece of cloth around his neck attached to a pipe which runs across the ceiling, on 27 October 2011 in his dormitory room in Kaki Bukit.There was no suicide note, nor any signs of foul play.

There is a black market for stolen or sold work permits. The newspaper quoted a spokesman for Transient Workers Count Too: “Lost and stolen work permits are used to assist foreigners in gaining illegal work.”

TWC2 highlighted one complication from over-caution: Some employers do not allow their workers to hold on to their work permits for fear that they will lose or sell the documents. “The worker may then hold a laminated copy. However, this is not taken as a proper form of identification by the police,” he added.

However, the New Paper noted that

A foreigner who has lost his work permit can report the loss and apply for a replacement at the Work Pass Services Centre in Tanjong Pagar Complex.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it takes about four working days to process a replacement work permit.

What the New Paper didn’t say — maybe it wasn’t mentioned at the inquest — was that, according to Roni’s fellow workers, they weren’t getting enough regular work from their employer. Although by law employers are supposed to pay their workers salaries for days even when there is no work, too often the practice is to deduct no-work days from their pay. The Ministry of Manpower closes one eye to this. Many workers in such situations find themselves financially desperate, since they would have paid thousands of dollars to recruitment agents to secure the job, and as a result seek additional moonlighting work.

Tragically in Roni’s case, Pabal absconded with their work permits instead of delivering on promises of extra work.