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Making justice count

“MOM’s Labour Court recovers S$1.5 million for 1,500 Singapore workers in 2009.” (MOM press release, 8 February 2010) “MOM’s Labour Court helped more than 700 workers recover about S$750,000 in first half of 2010.” (MOM press release, 28 September 2010) The above headlines refer to local, or Singaporean, workers. The situation for foreign workers, however, remains unclear. According to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which are involved in providing aid to migrant workers, many of these workers face salary disputes with their employers. And seeking recourse through the Ministry for Manpower (MOM) Labour Court is not always a fruitful exercise. The case of Nepalese worker Rana Kumar Rai, highlighted here, is a case in point. Basically, he was made to jump through the hoops, from the MOM to the Labour Court, but to no avail in seeking to retrieve the money owed to him by his employer. Rana had had a Labour Court judgement handed down in his favour but he soon realised that enforcing such a judgement was another matter altogether. In brief, he would have to enforce it through his own means. And this is where the system of justice breaks down completely for workers like him in such situations.…
workers

How the system failed this worker

By Andrew Loh For most of us, obtaining a court order in our favour would be the final vindication of our case. We would also expect that the judgement order be adhered to or be enforced. Otherwise, the court’s decision would be the result of nothing more than a worthless and meaningless legal process. Unfortunately for Nepalese Rana Kumar Rai, the Labour Court’s decision in his favour – over a salary dispute with his employer – is precisely that, a seemingly worthless paper judgement in his favour. This is his story and how the system here in Singapore has failed him. Rana, who hails from eastern Nepal, first came to Singapore in September 2009. With a wife, a 4-year old son, elderly parents (father, 65; mother, 63), and 2 younger siblings to care for, he looked for better prospects to help lift his family out of the poverty they were in. Borrowing from relatives and loansharks, he cobbled together some S$8,000 to pay an agent in Nepal to bring him to Singapore for work. Rana was told that he would be working 10 hours a day, and be paid a salary of S$1,000 per month. The contract he signed, however,…
M Ravi

M Ravi invited to consultation with UN

By Andrew Loh Singapore lawyer, Mr M Ravi, has been invited by the United Nations to attend its consultation with experts on the various issues relating to the imposition and implementation of the death penalty. The 2-day session, to be held at Harvard Law School, United States, on the 25 and 26 of June, will place particular emphasis on the notion of the “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty continues to be imposed. The invitation to Mr Ravi is from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr Christof Heyns; and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr Juan Méndez. Others who have also been invited to the consultation include representatives from Amnesty International, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda), the International Harm Reduction Association, the International Commission against the Death Penalty, and the Center for International Human Rights, among others. Three key issues will dominate the discussions: The notion of the “most serious crimes”. The session will discuss the ways in which it has been applied by domestic legislators and courts, and the remaining challenges. Complicity: Under this item, experts will focus…

Dr Lim Hock Siew – a lesson in resilience, strength and humility

Dr Lim Hock Siew, detained for almost 20 years in 1963, passed away on 4 June 2012. He was 81. The first that I’d heard of Dr Lim Hock Siew was when Martyn See wrote about him on his blog and later when he made that video of a speech by Dr Lim in 2010. Swiftly, the Media Development Authority (MDA) banned that film in July that year. The film remains banned till this day because, the authorities say, it is “against the public’s interest” for it to be allowed to be shown. I then had the opportunity to meet Dr Lim on several occasions, most notably a private session conducted by Function8, where Dr Lim related his side of the story of the events leading up to his incarceration in 1963’s Operation Coldstore. He would remain detained in jail for almost 20 years under the Internal Security Act (ISA). More… As with all ISA detainees, he was never charged or given the chance to defend himself in a court of law. The label – “ISA detainee” – conjures frightening imagery for some people. These detainees must be unpatriotic insurgents capable of heinous crimes and activities, such as rioting, using…