By Kan Ren Jie
I ask Lutfor Rahman how he is, and I am struck by his frank answer: ‘I now very bad. Now no job, makan got problem.’
While Rahman initially appears cheerful when I sit down and talk with him at TWC2’s free meals programme, laughing at some of our jokes about girlfriends, I soon discover a tale of frustrating dead-ends. Here is a hardworking individual who has fallen through the cracks of our system.
Two years ago, Rahman, 26, met with an accident on the way back to his dormitory from work. The lorry which brought him and his colleagues back from the shipyard had just reached their dorm and he alighted from the rear of the vehicle. A second lorry, ferrying more workers, drove up from behind but didn’t stop in time. He describes what happened next this way: “I downstairs… (from the dormitory). Lorry push from back, I fall down.”
He was sent to West Point Hospital. After several tests, it was determined that Rahman had suffered a fracture to his right collarbone. Even today, two years after that accident, he still struggles to lift up his right arm; the highest it can go is about 45 degrees from the side of his body.
According to Rahman, West Point Hospital gave him two days of medical leave and two weeks light duty, for which he was tasked to do painting jobs. When Rahman protested that even painting was too much for him, his supervisor (reportedly) told him to do it anyway, but hear from the doctor at the next appointment. “Two weeks [from now] go hospital, see how.” Rahman soon realized that ‘I no choice’, and resignedly carried out the painting jobs, trying his best to avoid using his right arm.
However, at his subsequent consultation at West Point, he was devastated when he found out that his injury had worsened. Previously, there were only cracks in his right collar bone, but there was now a clean break to the bone. He was transferred to Mount Alvernia Hospital, where he underwent two operations over 8 months. He then began rehabilitative exercises at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which he continues till now.
Raising the issue of injury compensation with his company, Rahman encountered an infuriating cycle of confusion and waiting. When he asked his supervisor: “My insurance money how?”, he was told: ‘”This one you no talk. I don’t know. Go boss talk.”
He then spoke with the boss but was given yet another non-committal answer: “You wait. See how.”
Frustrated over the non-committal answer, Rahman went to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for assistance. He was surprised to find that MOM was unaware of his accident. Apparently, the company had failed to file an incident report even though fifteen other men had witnessed the accident.
Rahman then sought out a lawyer to help him file a claim. But it also meant that he was put on a Special Pass, which does not allow him to work. He has remained unemployed for over a year.
Today, Rahman is still waiting for his insurance claims to be resolved. This period of idleness forced upon him has caused him great anxiety; indeed, he describes his circumstances as ‘very bad’, not just because of his inability to pay for daily expenses, but primarily because of his family back home in Bangladesh. He has four sisters and three brothers. One of the brothers is only 18 years old, but he has had to stop schooling to provide for the family.
Rahman still remains optimistic, hoping to stay in Singapore and find a new job.
For now, however, he is languishing in idleness, waiting to conclude a case that seems to be taking an eternity to be resolved.