'Inhumane' to dump dying worker

'Inhumane' to dump dying worker
The back alley in Upper Circular Road, where the body of Myanmar national Myo Min Aung was found.
PHOTO: The New Paper

He was illegally employed at their VivoCity worksite when he fell 11m and seriously injured himself.

Instead of sending freelance painter Myo Min Aung, 28, straight to hospital, two brothers from the company that had hired him bundled him into a car and drove around for 30 minutes before deciding to dump him.

They left the Myanmar national on a pavement in Upper Circular Road at around 1.20am on Oct 7, 2013. Paramedics pronounced him dead 13 minutes later.

Mr Myo Min Aung was working for painting works company, Height.Service.Magnanimity (HSM) at the shopping mall when he fell.

Yesterday, HSM site manager Muhammad Hidayat Abdul Rahman, now 41, pleaded guilty to one count each of depositing a dying person in a public place, failing to ensure the safety of his workers at the site and employing Mr Myo Min Aung, who did not possess a valid work pass. 

For dumping the man, he was given the maximum six months' jail. He was fined $85,000 for the other two offences.

Last December, his brother, safety supervisor Azhar Abdul Rahman, now 45, was also jailed for six months after pleading guilty to similar offences.

The court heard that Hidayat was the sole person in charge of HMS operations.

Mr Myo Min Aung and another Myanmar national, Mr Min Aung Myat Min, had appeared drunk when they reported to Azhar at VivoCity at around 11.20pm on Oct 6, 2013.

Azhar called Hidayat, who told him not to allow Mr Myo Min Aung to work.

But Azhar did not stop him.

LINK BRIDGE

The two men were on the roof of the link bridge at the second storey of the mall when Mr Myo Min Aung lost his balance and fell 11.7m to the ground at around midnight.

Though unconscious, he was still breathing when Hidayat arrived minutes later.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kelly Ho said: "Min asked Azhar and Hidayat to call for an ambulance. However, Hidayat... said that he would send the deceased to the hospital himself."

At the carpark, Hidayat and Mr Min Aung Myat Min changed the injured man out of his work clothes and put him in the back seat.

From around 12.50am to 1.20am, Hidayat and Azhar drove to different places including North Bridge Road, Canning Rise and Eu Tong Sen Road discussing what to do.

They considered leaving him at the Singapore General Hospital while driving around its grounds, but feared they would be spotted.

So they dumped him in Upper Circular Road near Song Fa Bak Kut Teh restaurant as the area was dark and there was nobody there.

At 1.24am, Azhar made an anonymous call for an ambulance and they waited in the area until one arrived. The worker was pronounced dead at 1.33am.

The brothers were caught after the authorities traced the call to Azhar's mobile phone. They admitted to their offences when the police questioned them.

An autopsy revealed that the worker had died of multiple injuries, consistent with those sustained after a fall from height.

District Judge Salina Ishak said that what Hidayat had done was "inhumane and morally reprehensible" before handing out the sentence.

Time to relook penalty

Workers are often treated like commodities, said Mr Jolovan Wham.

But what happened to Myanmar national Myo Min Aung - dumped in a back alley, injured - is the "worst and most tragic example of that kind of attitude", said the executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics.


Mr Jolovan Wham. Photo: Berita Harian

"I am not shocked because this is not the first time something like this has happened," he told The New Paper.

In 1996, Bangladeshi worker Mohamad Bashar, then 24, survived after being dumped in a monsoon drain following an accident at a construction site which left him paralysed from the waist down. 

'ALMOST LIKE MURDER'

Mr Wham added that the penalty for depositing a corpse or dying person in any public place - a six-month jail term and/or a $2,000 fine at most - should be relooked.

"What (the site manager and safety supervisor) did was almost like murder," Mr Wham said.

Mr Myo Min Aung's case raised several issues in the migrant worker community, including illegal employment and workplace safety.

The Myanmar national had illegally taken on the paint job on the night of the incident, the court heard yesterday.

Ms Nhaca Le Schulze, communications manager of migrant worker group HealthServe, told TNP that the responsibility lies with employers to confirm the validity of a worker's work permit before employing him.

Agreeing, Mr Wham said: "Undocumented workers are often the most vulnerable.


The link bridge between VivoCity and HarbourFront Centre where Mr Myo Min Aung is believed to have fallen. Photo: The New Paper

Safety breaches at VivoCity site

Site manager of painting works company Height.Service.Magnanimity, Muhammad Hidayat Abdul Rahman, failed to ensure his employees' safety at the work site at VivoCity shopping mall on Oct 7, 2013.

According to court papers, he had failed to:

Conduct an adequate risk assessment of the repainting works.

Develop safe work procedures specifying how the ropes for an access system were to be anchored for night works.

Ensure that the boom lift operator had been licensed to perform his duties.

For failing to ensure his employees' safety, Hidayat could have been jailed up to two years or fined up to $200,000.

Past cases

MAY 2005

Mr Maung Soe Thein, a Myanmar worker, died while he was working as a painter at an upgrading project in Compassvale Walk.

The illegal immigrant was found dead at a multi-storey carpark at Block 295, Compassvale Crescent.

Police believed that he had fallen to his death and that someone then took his body to the carpark, which was about five minutes' drive away.

Three men were each jailed for between seven and eight months for employing the illegal worker and for failing to provide information on the worker's death.

DECEMBER 1996

Mr Mohamad Bashar, an illegal worker from Bangladesh, was hit by a lift at a construction site near Yew Tee MRT station.

His employers dumped him in a monsoon drain in Jalan Ulu Sembawang. Mr Bashar, then 24, was paralysed from the waist down.

In 1997, Mr Bashar's sub-contractor and supervisor were jailed for 18 months and for 15 months respectively for their part.

Both pleaded guilty to hiring and harbouring an illegal worker, and endangering his life and disposing of evidence.

Well-wishers in Singapore raised $100,000 to help Mr Bashar, who returned to Bangladesh in late 1997. He also received $105,000 in official compensation.


This article was first published on May 21, 2016.
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