The owners of Masala Wheels, a well-known social enterprise tucked in a hidden corner of Seksyen 1, Petaling Jaya, have gotten themselves in hot water due to allegations of torture and abuse towards an ex-worker from India.
Hailing from Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, the ex-worker Velayutham who has since returned to South India, made the revelation in a ‘Neekondai Parvai’ show hosted by Lakshmy Ramakrishnan. He recollected his experience working there besides alleging to have been exploited in an unpaid manner as well as beaten and abused. Furthermore, the man also claimed that his passport had been burnt by the employer.
Mr Ravindran Subramaniam, the Chief Operating Officer of Masala Wheels, responded to the accusation on June 19th via a live Interview under the ‘Santhanar Dronachariyar’ Instagram account, which was hosted by Santhanar himself. Dinesh, one of Masala Wheels’ directors, was also present for the live interview.
In the video, he shows proof that Velayutham’s passport was not burnt and is currently being held by the lawyer who’s conducting the case. Furthermore, Mr Ravindran said that Velayutham started working at Masala Wheels from November 2018 until the day he disappeared which was on March 7th, 2020.
When asked about the burning incident that happened at Masala Wheels; Ravindran said it was a true incident that happened between two of their employees due to some misunderstanding and that he was not aware of the incident until he was contacted by his employees.
He further stated that, Michael who was the victim was rushed to the nearby clinic and Mohan who set him on fire surrendered himself at a police station in Petaling Jaya on the same day.
According to Ravindran, the problem arose between them i.e Velayutham when he noticed a huge sum of money was missing from the petty cash during auditing.
‘When I asked him about the missing cash, Velayutham asked me to double-check the receipts and after two days I received a call from India claiming that I am torturing him and I need to send him back to India immediately”, claims Ravidnran.
When Ravindran enquired with Velayutham about the phone call he received from the agent, Velayutham claimed that he is afraid of the current situation because of the burning incident that happened to his co-worker Michael.
Ravindran added that while he was verbally harsh with Velayutham due to the missing cash but he never laid his hands on him and told him he can leave upon handing over the missing cash but that afternoon Velayutham disappeared from the restaurant.
Ravindran said he is ready to give full cooperation to the authorities for the investigations.
In the meantime, the Masala Wheels Company has released a press statement denying allegations of abuse and discrimination among foreign workers at its premises.
Separately, Datuk Seri M Saravanan, the minister of Human Resources, joined in another live interview with Lakshmy Ramakrishnan and Velayutham on her YouTube channel on June 18th, 2020.
Datuk Saravanan stated that the restaurant had been raided by a multi-agency task force, which arrested one suspect for further interrogation. If the employers were found to have breached the applicable labour rules, his ministry may prosecute them, but somehow the police would have to investigate the criminal charges.
When asked by Lakshmy regarding foreign workers policy in Malaysia, Datuk Saravanan explained the Act 446 Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodation and Amenities Act 1990, and current initiatives taken by the Human Resource Ministry for the well being of foreign and local employees.
The initiative explained by him is such as the Working for Workers Application which helps the employees to voice out their concerns about the employers, the soon to be implemented E-Wages system which will ensure employees’ salaries are paid before the seventh of each month as stipulated under the Employment Act 1955.
A tweet was posted by the host of the show Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, thanking the Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Saravanan for contacting her and assuring to take action with regards to this matter.
Currently, the case is being investigated under Section 13 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (ATIPSOM). With the support of the International Police (Interpol), the team will work alongside the Malaysian Police to track down the man who made the serious allegations in the programme.
More updates to follow…
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