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Migrant workers deserve respect and dignity

Malay Mail - 21 October 2015 - There’s a video that’s going viral around the country right now. If you can bear watching it, you should.

There’s a video that’s going viral around the country right now. If you can bear watching it, you should.

The CCTV footage is of an angry altercation involving a Bangladeshi worker and a male customer regarding the cleaning of the interior of a luxury SUV at a car wash. The worker is slapped on the face several times. He was later found to have been assaulted by the same customer which resulted in cuts, bruises and a broken nose; injuries which required hospitalisation and medical attention. The man reportedly refused to pay for the car wash and instead demanded RM1,000 in compensation for the car’s upholstery which had been allegedly dirtied by the worker.

Right there in full colour is the ugly Malaysian in action.

The naked display of arrogance and contempt on display for all to see. A bully who is exerting his power and superiority over another person. Is this the price that some of us have paid to obtain wealth, prosperity and economic progress?

For some, it has cost them their humanity, and ability to treat others with dignity, respect and decency. This man might have driven or owned a nice car and seemed well-off but through his samseng actions he was no better than a common thug or kaki pukul.

This is not one of a few isolated cases nor the last incident of this nature. Other manifestations include the mistreatment and abuse of domestic helpers by their employers which despite many efforts continue to dog us and sully our country’s reputation.

There’s a disease of entitlement and superiority inflicting many of us who are often better off in comparison to this migrant worker. We, who are privileged to live, work and be a citizen of this country. Who feel that perhaps we are above or superior to those who come to work here as migrant workers, Indonesian, Cambodian, Bangladeshi, or whatever nationality they may be.

Who perhaps feel that it is alright to treat with disdain, contempt and such disrespect, people who are trying to earn an honest living far away from home and trying to support their families by washing and cleaning other people’s cars.

Because this is what this incident is symptomatic of: discrimination and a lack of respect for those who are doing jobs and work which Malaysians are loathe to do and shun, particularly when they are in the service industry or those which fall under the 3D (dangerous, demeaning and dirty) category such as construction work.

Let’s face it. When a person is a foreign worker whose office is in the business district or some swanky part of town, wears nice clean clothes, speaks well, I doubt that this man with the luxury SUV would dare strike, much less assault, such a person over a disagreement or issue.

But because the worker is a migrant who has come from a less developed country compared to our own, works in a dirty job and wears less than clean clothes, this man obviously felt that not only did he have the right to strike and assault this migrant several times, he also probably thought he could get away with it.

Nothing justifies the kind of abuse and mistreatment experienced by the Bangladeshi worker and the assault that followed. Let’s be clear. What this man inflicted on the car wash worker was a crime under Malaysian law. This man must be held accountable for what he did.

The Quran and Prophet Muhammad pbuh spoke of how it is necessary to treat others as we would want to be treated. The sentiments and actions of employer Atie Abdul Hamid who took her worker first to a clinic and later to a hospital for treatment, is testimony of a person living up to this call and gives us hope that there are many who are not like this man. That there are many Malaysians who treat those who come to work in this country, with respect and decency.

Her compassionate and respectful approach to helping her employee stands as an example to all of us especially for employers and business owners. There should be no tolerance of mistreatment and abuse towards those who work for us regardless of their status or background. In this, the customer is NOT king.

Puan Atie’s car wash business may well benefit from this incident. We should always look towards supporting businesses which demonstrate good judgement and take care of their staff. If I owned a car, I would be sending it to her business to get it washed and cleaned.

I pray for her employee’s speedy recovery from his injuries and hope that he will be able to go back to work soon. Oh, and Puan Atie, if you are reading this, best of luck on the upcoming birth of your baby!

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