MAS sacks steward for alleged sex crime

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has fired a flight steward languishing in a Paris detention centre since August, even before he is charged with alleged sexual assault, says the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam).

The union said the action by the loss-making flag carrier is unlawful and against the rules of natural justice.

Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin said the employee who had served the national carrier for 32 years was notified of his termination in a letter that was sent to his home in the Klang Valley two weeks after the alleged incident.

“This is unprecedented as the letter was sent when he is still languishing in an overseas detention centre,” said Ismail. He added that  MAS had given the steward 60 days to appeal against the termination on grounds of “misconduct”.

“How is he going to appeal when he didn’t know that he was sacked from his employment?” Ismail asked.

The union has referred the matter to the Industrial Relations Department to reinstate the 57-year-old employee.

Ismail alleged that MAS had not provided any assistance to the family of the steward.

“It is the Malaysian Embassy in Paris that has been helping our member and his family to cope during this difficult time,” said Ismail, who expressed unhappiness over the way MAS had handled the case.

Ismail also said that MAS wanted to wash its hands off the incident as it was struggling from the negative publicity generated following the missing MH370 flight and downed MH17 flight.

Lawyer Ragunath Kesavan said that MAS, as the employer, should have made an effort to secure the release of the steward from the detention centre.

“The employee is deemed innocent until proven guilty by a court and MAS should have gone all the way to secure his freedom,” he said, adding that the alleged sexual asssult took place when the steward was on duty.

Ragunath said that MAS could have suspended him and paid 50% of his wages. He added that a domestic inquiry should have been held so that the union or the family members could have appeared before the committee to explain what had transpired.

Lawyer Shailender Bhar, who has been engaged by the steward’s family, said French police had no jurisdiction to investigate the sexual assault on a passenger as the incident did not take place in that country or its air space.

The lawyer said that under the Tokyo Convention, the steward, who has been held by French police for investigation for sexual assault since Aug 5, should be sent home for investigation. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 14, 2014.