September 13, 2017
Category: Cases

Legal Victory

Five years after her employer withheld all but a small fraction of her salary, our new client Oktarina* has just become an official creditor against her employer.

Oktarina came from Indonesia to work in Singapore in 2010, returning home in 2012. When she left Singapore, Oktarina was owed an amount worth several years of salary back home. While Oktarina worked hard to press her employer for her wages, she never received any response.

Nearly five years later, Justice Without Borders encountered Oktarina’s case when we visited Seruni, a local NGO that had been assisting her with other local needs. Seruni brought up the case, hoping that something could be done, even so long after she left Singapore. Fortunately, we found her claim was not too late to be made. 

JWB  worked with Singapore-based law firm Drew and Napier LLC to prepare litigation against Oktarina’s employer. In the process, we struck a key roadblock: Oktarina’s employer had been declared bankrupt, which prevented legal action against the employer.

Fortunately, all was not lost. Oktarina’s employer was required to repay many of her debts, and the government designated an Official Assignee to oversee claims amid the repayment process. Drew & Napier began the process of applying for Oktarina’s outstanding wages to be officially recognised as debt owed by her employer. Doing so would end any argument about the debt, and would put Oktarina on track to receive at least some of her outstanding wages over time.

Thankfully, our partners were successful. Oktarina not only had her claim recognized; she also became an official creditor against her employer. Now repayment is only a matter of time.

Victory even before payment

Despite the time and uncertainty of receiving full payment, Oktarina reports that she is happy with the outcome. For five years, her employer did not even recognize that she owed Oktarina anything. Singapore’s legal system changed that. The official recognition has given Oktarina a measure of moral justice that she had needed since returning home.

With at least some payment pending, Oktarina can now look forward to additional financial security, and that will have a large impact on her life going forward.

How Oktarina’s case advances cross-border access to justice

Justice Without Borders pursued Oktarina’s case as part of our test litigation program to provide access to just compensation for victims who have returned home.

The outcome highlights the key role JWB plays in helping our clients gain access to the legal systems in the countries that they have worked. Without our team, Oktarina’s case would have continued to languish, eventually running into time limits that govern most claims. There are countless claimants like her who simply cannot pursue a foreign claim after returning home; the organisations on the ground that help them simply do not have the connections or capacity to make such claims.

Our work in this case helps build further precedent for cross-border access to justice, even after many years and after the client has long since returned home. We include outcomes like this in our capacity building work with our front-line partners to show what is possible, and to share real-world knowhow on how to identify and bring such cases.

Oktarina’s case will inform our and our partners’ ongoing work to identify those with valid claims, before and after they return home. While success is not guaranteed every time, people like Oktarina help make the case that access to justice is not only possible,  be should be expected, no matter where the victim happens to be.

*The victim’s real name has been changed to protect her identity.