Industrial court wants case of security guard vs US gov’t to proceed without delay

Letter to Editor

THE attempts by the counsel representing the US government to postpone an industrial court case yesterday (Feb 9) were rejected by the Industrial Court chairman Amrik Singh.

He told both parties that the case will proceed as scheduled next week on Feb 16 and 17. The claimant in the case is Surabmaniam Letchimanan, 55, a former security guard at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur who claimed that he was unfairly dismissed in 2008.

Earlier, counsel for the US government Lim Heng Seng and Summer Chong had asked for a postponement of the proceedings next week as they had made an application to strike off the claimant’s case on Dec 23 last year.

The US counsel further stated that since the claimant had filed an affidavit in reply to the US application, they would need to take instructions from their clients regarding the filing of an affidavit in reply to the industrial court case.

This postponement was opposed by Subramaniam’s counsel who stated that this was a further attempt to delay the proceedings of the case in the Industrial Court as directed by the Federal Court. Ragunath Kesavan, Joshua Tan, and Hooisheue Khoo represented Subramaniam.

The Industrial Court chairman was of the opinion that the US government should have filed the application expeditiously upon receipt of the claimant’s statement of case.

To date, the US government has not filed any witness statement. Hence, the court directed that the hearing on Feb 16 and 17 shall proceed as scheduled with the court hearing both the merits of the case and the US application simultaneously.

Justice delayed is justice denied. This is not the first time that the US government has attempted to prevent Subramaniam from having a day in court to hear his case on the merits.

It is only now – after 15 years – that the Industrial Court will hear the unlawful dismissal of Subramaniam which occurred on April 14, 2008. After going through numerous bureaucratic and court battles, the Federal Court finally reinstated the case to the Industrial Court on June 20 last year.

This very critical case is a story of Subramaniam, an ordinary security guard, who has successfully gone against the most powerful country in the world by effectively taking them to court and winning the right to be heard.

During the Federal Court hearing on March 28 last year, counsel Ragunath argued that the Court of Appeal had rightly held that the Industrial Court is the proper forum to decide on Subramaniam’s dismissal and that the applicability of the restrictive doctrine of sovereign immunity can only be determined after a fact-finding process done by the Industrial Court.

On the other hand, the US government argued that the issue of the disciplinary conduct of an embassy staff is an internal matter and represents the prerogative of a sovereign state, therefore they are immune and the Industrial Court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

However, the Federal Court put the case to rest and agreed with counsel representing Subramaniam by remitting the case to the Industrial Court.

We hope that the matter will finally be heard in the Industrial Court next week unless the US government once again thwarts the process.

Meanwhile, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) which has been helping Subramaniam over the years, also intends to do crowdfunding to raise money for people like Subramaniam as well as other B40 workers who have been dismissed unlawfully. – Feb 10, 2023


S.Arutchelvan is deputy chairman of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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