He felt guilty over lost work permits

HE ARRIVED in Singapore from Bangladesh about seven months ago to work as a painter.

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 hanged in his room at a foreign workers' hostel at Kaki Bukit Avenue 4 on Oct 27.

Yesterday, a coroner's inquest into his death revealed that he had hanged himself with a piece of cloth that was attached to a pipe which runs across the ceiling.

Investigation officer Lin Zhihao told the court that no suicide note was found in the room.

There were also no signs of violence to suggest foul play.

State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid said that Mr Md Roni had killed himself probably out of guilt as he felt that his friends had lost their work permits because of him.

Assistant Superintendent Lin said that Pabal has not been found and the case has been classified as one of cheating.

He added that investigations are still ongoing.

The court heard yesterday that an original work permit can cost about $300 in the black market.

Last September, a Bangladeshi man was jailed 10 months after admitting that he had conned four of his countrymen of their work permits.

Md Sobuj, 25, duped them into thinking they needed photocopies of the document to visit Sentosa. He fled after they handed the permits to him.

Mr Jolovan Wham, the executive director of migrant worker welfare group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, explained why work permits are so sought after.

"There are some workers, especially those who have overstayed, who will show these original work permits to the authorities should they be stopped on the streets to show that they are supposedly legally staying in Singapore," he said.

"These workers are usually victims of recruitment scams. They may feel compelled to remain behind to work in illegal jobs because of the huge debts they have paid to the agents who cheated them."

A spokesman for non-profit organisation Transient Workers Count Too said: "Lost and stolen work permits are used to assist foreigners in gaining illegal work."

He said that 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.

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.

Commenting on foreign workers who accept part-time jobs, MOM stressed that they should work only for the employer specified on their work permits.

A worker who is caught moonlighting may be jailed up to a year and fined a maximum of $5,000.

MOM added that anyone who gives or sells a work pass or uses any work pass issued to another person is committing an offence.

Those convicted of it can be jailed up to a year and fined up to $15,000.


This article was first published in The New Paper.