MOM drops case against worker accused of lying about injuries
IN A rare turn of events, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday withdrew charges against a foreign worker whom it had accused of lying about his work injuries.
The withdrawal of the charges was a long-awaited relief for Bangladeshi safety supervisor Shahidulla Md Anser Ali. The 32-year-old has been stuck in Singapore, unable to work, for more than two years while his case was pending.
He said: "I am very happy. If I had done wrong, I would have gone to jail as this is the right thing to do, but I know I did no wrong."
He had gone to the MOM in 2014 to make a report about being beaten by his boss, but ended up charged with making a fraudulent claim under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica). He was also charged with two counts of lying to an investigating officer.
Wica is a low-cost alternative to common law for workers to settle compensation claims for injuries sustained during work.
Court documents said Mr Shahidulla was charged with lying that his supervisor physically assaulted him and injured his back on March 1, 2014.
Had he been found guilty of making a fraudulent claim, he could have been fined up to $15,000, jailed up to a year, or both. Each offence of making false statements could have led to a fine of up to $5,000, or a jail term of up to six months, or both.
An MOM spokesman said: "The charges were withdrawn as a new witness, who could not be located during investigations, has come forth to support Shahidulla's version of events."
Wica violation cases are not common but the number of workers MOM has taken to court for such offences has edged up over the years.
Last year, it prosecuted and convicted five workers for Wica offences, up from four in 2014 and two in both 2013 and 2012.
Nine workers have been prosecuted this year, with three convicted so far.
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) executive committee member Debbie Fordyce said that in the past eight years, she has dealt with about a hundred new foreign worker injury cases a month, but only seen six - including Mr Shahidulla's - in which MOM prosecuted the worker for a Wica violation.
Mr Shahidulla, an only child, said he is looking forward to returning to Bangladesh to see his parents. "My mother and I will kiss each other and cry, and I don't know who will cry more."
Unable to work in the past two years, he could not send back money and has had to borrow $4,000 from friends and relatives for living expenses, while depending on TWC2 for food.
He hopes, however, to return to Singapore to work, as his safety qualifications will earn him more here than back home. "I want to keep other workers safe," he said.