17/2/2023 update on US embassy unlawful dismissal case

Today, the KL Industrial Court concluded its hearing in the high-profile case between Subramaniam as the claimant and the Government of the United States. The court heard the testimony of the US Government’s second witness, Mr. Eugene Kim, after Mr. Christopher George Pixley testified yesterday. The US continued their line of argument that they will only testify on the issue of sovereign immunity and will not be testifying on matters regarding the dismissal of the claimant or the merits of the claimant’s case. At this point, Chairperson Mr. Amrik cautioned that he will decide on the question of merits as well, as that is his role in a Section 20 dismissal case.

Previously, the US was very adamant, despite the Federal Court decision, that they wanted the issue of immunity to be decided as a preliminary issue. That would have meant that Subramaniam would likely go through another round of court battle up to the Federal Court, and only if it is in his favor would it be heard on the merits in the Industrial Court. The motion was vehemently opposed by the claimant’s lawyer, Ragunath, who argued that this would result in so much further delay before the matter is finally adjudicated. The Chairman agreed and ordered that the issue of immunity and the merits of the case must be heard together. It was a huge relief for Subramaniam. Yet the USA continues to stick to their position that they will confine their case to the question of immunity.

The US’s second witness, Eugene Kim, took the stand today and testified on his role as well as the work done by the claimant. Ragunath Kesavan then proceeded to cross-examine Eugene Kim on issues of sovereign immunity. Thereafter, the USA had closed their case, and Subramaniam was called to the stand to give his testimony.

Subramaniam finally got his day in court. He spoke about how, after his dismissal, he was jobless for three years before finding a job at a security company with lower pay and later resorting to driving Grab, earning a salary of RM 1.5k. He also stated on the stand that he always received pay increments and bonuses at the end of each year. Subramaniam said that, though he is a security guard, he is not permitted to enter into the office of the Staff office as well as the residence of the US ambassador. He also has no access and does not do any work in accompanying diplomats or ambassadors in his line of duty. Subramaniam also reemphasized the fact that his appointment letter did not have the four attachments as stated. The counsel for the USA informed the Court that they will only be cross-examining Mr. Subramaniam on issues of sovereign immunity. Therefore, once again, the issues of wrongful dismissal did not surface.

The Chairperson then asked all parties to file their written submissions on or before 16.3.2023 and be fixed for e-mention on the same day at 2.30 p.m.

At the court today, Subramaniam’s family members, as well as workers’ activists and unionists, were present to give morale support. This case is an important case as it will determine if Malaysian workers 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 available to him and other such workers.

Deputy Chairperson

Parti Sosialis Malaysia

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