Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bangladeshis' hunger strike enters Day 4 (Malaysiakini)

Bangladeshis' hunger strike enters Day 4
Andrew Ong
Sep 13, 07 5:16pm

Some 100 Bangladeshis are on hunger strike over the past four days inside the Bangladeshi High Commission in Kuala Lumpur over a wage dispute.

Group spokesperson Jainal Abidin said they were left with no choice but to go on hunger strike in order to get help from their diplomatic mission.

“We are waiting for death. Four days (without) food. Many (are) sick,” said Jainal 25, when met outside the High Commission’s compound today.

He said they have lost hope in finding proper employment in Malaysia and want their high commission to arrange for their passage home.

Jainal said the workers were brought into Malaysia in four batches between February to May, with promises of high-paying jobs but ended up doing manual labour in an acid factory.

They were allegedly not paid for six months and were fed one meal a day. The group is holding their Bangladeshi agent responsible for allegedly misleading them.

“We want our money back from (the agent). We had sold our goats, cows and even land to come here,” added Jainal.

Typically, Bangladeshis have to pay about RM12,000 in order to obtain work in Malaysia.

Human rights lawyer Renuka T Balasubramaniam who represents the group said a claim for back wages have been filed with the Labour Department last week against their former employers based in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur.

Similar cases

Meanwhile, another group of 50 Bangladeshis have been camping outside the high commission by the roadside over the past few days - there is not enough room in the diplomatic mission to house all the disgruntled workers.

This group (photo above) claimed to have been misled by agents into becoming ‘salespersons’ as stated in their contracts but were made to do manual labour in a steel factory.

Their spokesperson Mohammad Ibrahim, 30, said they were paid only half of what was promised to them since working in a factory over the past three months.

Mohammad said the group had since left the factory and are appealing to the High Commission to arrange for alternative employment.

Calls to both the high commission and its labour councillor for comments went unanswered.

There is an estimated 300 Bangladeshis presently camping within and outside the high commission in Ampang. They survive on food occasionally brought by well-wishers.

Such occurrences are not uncommon. On July 21, at least 200 Bangladeshis gathered outside the high commission to seek redress after being allegedly cheated by agents and employers.

Rights group Tenaganita have repeatedly stressed that their predicament have been the result of policy loopholes which allows labour outsourcing companies to take advantage of Bangladeshis seeking greener pastures here.

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