Monday, June 26, 2006

Pro Bono

These past few weeks have been a blur. I have started my Legal Aid chapter of my chambering. It is basically pro bono work and I am currently assisting this NGO that goes by the name of Tenaganita which concerns women and migrant workers.

As we deal mostly with migrant workers, we hear a plethora of sob stories and it is heart breaking and a very humbling experience. As most of the workers than walk into our clinic are from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, we are talking about very poor people who in most cases had to sell what little they had at home to the work agents to bring them here to work.

You can guess what happens next. It is such a shame how some local employers exploit their workers and we are talking about these poor chaps who work for more than 10 hours for just RM20 a day and even then subject to the numerous deductions the employer would impose on whim.

There have been many many instances where when the workers stand up for themselves, the employers merely cancels their work permits, hence rending them illegal migrants as they have no cause to be in the country anymore. Then the Immigration Department comes down on them and shunts then off to the Detention Centre, which is another deplorable story altogether.

When things reach breaking point, they come to the clinic where we help where we can, be it liasing with the employer for some sort of remedy or the relevant government departments to allow them to sue their employers or just to get them home.

Pro bono work is indeed interesting although for Tenaganita it is exhausting both phycically and emotionally. If you had the unhappy occassion to cross swords with the Immigration Department, you would know the stress it entails. Now imagine if you are a migrant worker who nobody cares about and who everybody conveniently blames for all the social problems in the country - think you will receive any sympathy from the authorities?

I think we tend to forget that they are people too. I admit, before being apart of this, I viewed migrant workers with suspicion too. They may not dress or sometimes smell too well and my guess is that many people would rather not know of their existance. It is really not their fault as they can't afford the basic luxuries that we take for granted.

On the first day I was on duty and I had to interview 10 Indian nationals who have not been paid for more than 3 months by their boss. That night I could hardly touch my dinner as I felt guilty for being so priviledged that I can eat without wondering where my next meal would come from.

I have had to accompany a migrant worker to make a police report and today I visited the Embassy to facilitate a worker's repatriation. You won't believe what a problem it is just to send a worker home even if he desperately wants to!

You see, the moment one's work permit expires, one is considered an undocumented migrant and even if one has a valid ticket to go home, he would be arrested at the airport and sent to Detention Camp and charged in court! Hence we have to make sure that all the legalities are dealt with and fines paid before even sending a worker home. Easier said than done.

Of course there are bad hats out there who give a bad name to the entire clan, some certain nationals more than others, but sadly all of them gets painted with the same fear and prejudice and we don't seem to see that in many ways they are just like us, trying hard to make a living the best way they know how.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Spent a lurvery weekend with the folks back home. The brother and I traveled home to spend time whith my Dad who is back from work for 2 weeks and to celebrate Mom's birthday on Sunday.

And you can say all you want about Karaoke but it is one of the best bonding experience in the world. Singing in key is of course, optional.

Dad spent a grand on this Karaoke microphone which has all the tunes programmed inside it so that anytime one wants to rattle the shingles, one just plugs the mike into the TV and hey presto-portable Karaoke! 1000 songs from Tom Jones, Richard Marx, Eminem (I kid you not), and other Karaoke luminaries.

My parents enjoy terrorising the neighbours between the 4 pm to 6pm. It would be anytime now that the neighbourhood committee would be serving my parents with an injunction to stay away from the machine.

Anyway, I hope my mom enjoys her Anna Sui birthday present. Soo decadent.
Now to find something for father's day coming next week. Who came up with all these celebrations is a marketing genius.

Well, like most parents, mine frequently deprive themselves of luxuries but would splurge us kids as much as they can. As a kid I used to hurt so much when my Dad would insist that I get new clothes for the celebrations but he would go without and how my mom would never even dream of getting anything that was not on discount. Our family income was modest and it amazes me now even as I am struggling to make ends meet, how Mom and Dad could possibly raise two kids and saw to it that we got proper education. Being frugal is second nature to my folks.

Hence the way the Brother and I indulge our parents is with springing them with good stuff that they would never get for themselves. Having our parents coming so close to splitting up, has permanently renewed our respect for family and togetherness, as corny as that sounds. And as I see my folks growing older every time I go home, I am sad that I am not able to provide them with more creature comforts.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Like most, I wonder where the days go to. Oh never mind the weekdays, just give me longer weekends. Speaking of time warps, why is Saturday SO SLOW in coming.

Yet I hate Sunday nights due to the anticipation of the next day's slave pits. And my mood at 6.30 am Monday mornings is sour enough is turn my Dutch Lady milk to yogurt.

More juicy gossip from the office. Not only is my master leaving in 3 weeks, two other lawyers have left. My current master (yes, the one who is about to go) is trying to convince me to be Mr Wanker's pupil. With all respect, I did listen to her reasons and politely went "naaaah!"