By Seema Punwani
Shahidulla Md Anser Ali knew the safety rules. The job needed four men so that there would be enough eyes to watch the delicate operation from multiple angles. He was assigned only two. He tried to explain to his superior the importance of adhering to safety protocols especially as the main contractor took safety issues very seriously. The supervisor ignored the appeal and insisted that work should continue with just the number of men supplied to him.
Shahidulla still refused, on completely legitimate grounds, and soon the main contractor heard about the matter. The main contractor agreed with Shahidulla and said work must stop until more men were found and the safety protocol adhered to.
This made Shahidulla’s boss very angry. As he could not do anything against the main contractor, he directed his anger at poor Shahidulla. Visibly enraged, he charged towards Shahidulla and hit him on his upper left chest. Shahidulla fell to the floor, hurting his back in the process. That wasn’t enough even though Shahidulla was now wincing in pain on the ground. The boss then kicked him violently. “The fat boss anyhow box my body and leg,” Shahidulla tells us, recounting the incident that is still fresh in mind.
Shahidulla, 32, is like your average Bangla worker, living an average life, working in an average construction job, earning his average earnings. He was satisfied with this average life. He didn’t set out to be a hero. But after three years, he was now a Safety supervisor, and duly aware of his duties to his job.
The incident happened in March 2014. He lodged a report with the police, and went to make a similar complaint at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). At MOM, according to Shahidulla, “the officer there said the ‘hantam’ [assault] is a police matter, MOM not handle.” However, “if I injured, then can make injury claim.” Upon this advice from the MOM officer serving him, he lodged a case under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA). Naturally, he lost his job that very day, and has been put on a Special Pass, so he can stay on in Singapore while the investigation proceeds.
Shahidulla, fit and fine within three months of the injury, is keen to commence work once again. But the Special Pass prohibits him from working. He requested MOM for a transfer to a different employer, but this request was not granted.
One year on and the investigation is still continuing, with no end in sight. It does make one wonder how can the police and MOM take this long to come to a conclusion? Especially when there was video proof of the alleged assault, captured by the main contractor’s engineer on duty. The engineer felt Shahidulla had been wronged, and offered him the video to help his case. Shahidulla has submitted this video to MOM and the police.
“My heart pain! I can work. I want to work. But not allowed to work,” says a distraught Shahidulla as he tells us his story.
We have a worker here who stood up for what’s right, got assaulted in return, and despite proof of the alleged assault, he is kept waiting for resolution.
A year of waiting. A year of missed income and missed remittances to support a family at home. A year of waste.
In early June 2015, fifteen unemployed months after the incident, Shahidulla got another shock. He received a summons. He would be charged for making a false injury compensation claim, with the strong possibility of imprisonment.
Was everything he said pure fiction?
Continued in part 2.