Like That Also Can Ah?!!

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I wonder where they are...

If you’ve been reading the headlines recently, the government is once again cracking down on illegal workers in our country, now that the amnesty period for voluntary repatriation has come to an end. And so the authorities will be making their checks in construction sites around the country, since it is widespread knowledge that the building industry hires the most illegal aliens.

In all the years of dirtying my hands and clothes in the mud of our construction industry, I have worked alongside many, many foreign workers and seen the human face behind what the public calls a menace and a social threat. What I have seen is nothing shocking, it is merely the hearts and minds of vagabonds who left their homeland and families to earn an honest wage in the hopes of a better life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Irene Fernandez, and I’m not glorifying the illegal influx, and granted many of the aliens are involved in crime and give their lot a bad name. But with the fanfare in the media these days, I sometimes wonder what has happened to some of these guys I knew:

Maung Maung a.k.a Gemuk, the eternally cheerful concreting supervisor, even after 24 hours of non-stop work. Gemuk had really bad teeth, and he loved fried chicken. The last I heard he was deported back to Myanmar after a raid, but as he used to say, “Lepas 24 jam boleh balik Malaysia, maa…”

Nur Alam, the Bangladeshi worker, with his trademark rusty sunglasses. He was a bit effeminate, and was always teased no end about working through the night with the boys.

Samuri the Indonesian plasterer, always with his white muslin cap. He was a good plasterer, and traveled from site to site in search of work with gang of friends. He once told me about his wife and 2 children back home in Jawa. I hope he is well…

And also the nice Thai general worker (name withheld), who, one day clearing rubbish on the second floor of an uncompleted slab, fell through a stairwell and died instantly. I can still remember the smashed face, the blood spurt on the ground, and the letter to his wife and young child telling the news…

Sometimes I feel like I need to change of industry.


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