US should not hide behind immunity to deprive the basic rights of its ex-employee

Editor’s note: Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s (PSM) deputy chairman S. Arutchelvan has described the case of former US Embassy security guard L. Subramaniam as a landmark case that will determine if Malaysians who work in foreign embassies will get protection if they are unlawfully dismissed or if these embassies will be exempted in the name of immunity.

The Federal Court has already ruled that there is no absolute immunity. The question now is if Subramaniam, a low-rank security guard, can get justice from the legal avenue in Malaysia.


WHETHER former security guard at the US Embassy L. Subramaniam will finally get justice remains to be seen.

After two days of hearing this month, the industrial court has yet to return its verdict. The final verdict will determine whether there is any merit to the immunity argument advanced by the US Embassy.

Subramaniam, 55, was dismissed as a security guard in the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur 15 years ago in 2008. He was an ordinary security guard who was dismissed without any reasons.

He was merely entrusted to the opening and closing the gates of the US Embassy. Contrary to what was said by the US officials, Subramaniam was never involved in the security matters of the Embassy.

L. Subramaniam (fourth from right) with his supporters


The two earlier human resource ministers refused to transfer the case to be adjudicated by the industrial court.

However, when the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government came to power in 2018, the matter was referred to the industrial court finally.

The US Embassy sought to nullify the case of Subramaniam by using the immunity argument. The matter was then referred to the Court of Appeals and then to The Federal Court

Both the courts held the view that the matter should be referred back to the industrial court one again.

The matter has been finally heard by the industrial court very recently. The verdict is awaited early.

Immunity stands in between

The question before the court is whether there is any merit to the application by Subramaniam on unfair dismissal or whether the claims by the US Embassy for immunity can nullify the case of unfair dismissal.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy (Photo credit: MalayMail)

There is immunity and yet there is no blanket immunity. If Subramaniam was involved with opening and closing of the US Embassy’s gates, I don’t understand how the question of immunity is applicable.

Whether the US Embassy has blanket security on all matters is something that has to be decided by the court.

Even if there is an argument in support of the immunity of the US Embassy, it is mind boggling to note that US as superpower would resort to such an argument in defiance of the plight and misery of an ordinary worker like Subramaniam.

Given Subramaniam’s economic and social conditions, the US Embassy could have reinstated him after his dismissal or paid him a reasonable compensation.

But why drag the matter for more 15 years on the question of misplaced principle of immunity?

I am sure the US had expended much money and energy in taking up the matter, but what is the purpose of such a defiance against a poor ordinary security guard?

The US preaches to the world about democracy, human rights and justice. But where are these ideas in giving a fair deal to Subramaniam?

If the US cannot even resolve this matter of a simple dismissal, how is the country going to settle international disputes and rivalries?

The issue of Immunity may arise but how can such an argument be used or misused to deny the basic fundamental rights of a human being?

Shame on the US! – Feb 18, 2023


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.

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

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