Mariam Mokhtar’s Take on Mahathir and The Malays


September 17, 2014

Mariam Mokhtar’s Take on Mahathir and The Malays

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

The Malays will be around, with or without UMNO Baru, but the converse does not hold true. Malays do not need UMNO Baru, but if UMNO Baru were to lose the support of ordinary Malays, the party would cease to exist. Without UMNO Baru, the Malays would thrive. UMNO Baru is like a poison to the Malays. Day in, day out they are inundated with the emotional baggage of race, religion and royalty.

Dr.MahathirDid the Malays let him down?

The outburst last week by former PM Mahathir Mohamad should be considered a betrayal. Mahathir rewards the people on whose backs he rose to absolute power by insulting them. He pushed affirmative action policies, which slowly eroded Malaysia. Behind the backs of ordinary Malays, Mahathir handsomely rewarded select Malays and non-Malays, whom he deemed worthy of his favours. He killed off the aspirations of many generations of Malaysians. Disillusioned by the lack of leadership many left, never to return.

As a doctor, he should have realised the dangers of making the wrong diagnosis. Remember the story about the man who consulted many doctors about his terrible headaches. Eventually, one surgeon said that he could cure the problem; but the remedy was an orchidectomy.

Unable to bear the pain, this man underwent the surgery. He was delighted that his pain was gone. To celebrate the freedom from pain, he decided to buy a new suit. The tailor asked him on which side he “dressed”. The man said he had never given it any thought and asked if it was important. The tailor said it was of paramount importance; if the trousers were not cut correctly, it could cause terrible headaches.

The analogy with Malaysia is similar. Malaysian problems have been misdiagnosed and the wrong treatment has been prescribed. After decades of manipulating Malaysians, dividing the various ethnic groups and rewarding only those from his inner circle, Mahathir turned on Malaysians, in particular the Malays, and called them lazy, dishonest, cheats, liars and Mat Rempits. Mahathir forgot the provisos. Most of the Malays he refers to are UMNO Baru Malays, and the opportunists who are found in every racial grouping.

Mat Rempits2The Mat Rempits

There are millions of Malays who are hard-working, honest, loyal and law-abiding. Like many of their non-Malay peers, ordinary Malays may not have access to the resources needed to succeed. Malaysians are hampered and crippled by the UMNO Baru Malays, many of whom occupy positions of authority, and dictate what can, or cannot be done.

They say that timing is everything in politics. Why did Mahathir insult the Malays in the week before we celebrate Malaysia Day? Was he trying to undermine the reputation of his hand-picked successor, Najib Abdul Razak? He need not bother. Najib has little credibility left.

If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, Mahathir is “upset” that his cronies are losing out on their share of the rich pickings, which are currently being enjoyed by Najib’s cronies.

Is Mahathir angry that his legacy will be forgotten? Is he concerned that many ordinary Malays are beginning to realise that they do not need the crutches of the New Economic Policy (NEP)? Is he angry that time is running out for Mukhriz to win the most coveted prize in Malaysian politics – the Prime Ministership? Is he disturbed that Malays are ignoring racist and religious rhetoric, and joining the exodus to work and live abroad?

What about the large-scale plunder of Malaysia? Mahathir said that some Malays were stealing from his company, ‘The Loaf’. What about the large-scale plunder of Malaysia by UMNO Baru, BN and their cronies, including those from MCA and MIC? The true purpose of UMNO Baru is to prolong the political life of its leaders. With political power comes the ability to squander the wealth of the nation.

The employees of ‘The Loaf’ should be rewarded. They are following the example of UMNO Baru. Most industrialists know that when employees steal, there is something seriously wrong with the management of the company. How were the people who allegedly stole from ‘The Loaf’ punished? Were they arrested, charged and punished by the courts? Malaysians are angry that many multi-billion ringgit government projects, built with taxpayers’ money have failed. Incredibly, no one has been punished.

In Malaysia, many murderers are not made to account for their crimes. The murderers of political aide Teoh Beng Hock, car salesman A Kugan, and teenager Aminulrasyid Amzah, to name but a few.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

When Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah challenged Mahathir in 1987 for alleged vote rigging in the UMNO internal elections, the High Court declared UMNO an illegal party. Mahathir was humiliated and exacted his revenge on the Judiciary. He could have been brought down, but the Opposition were in disarray and probably caught by surprise.

Over the past 20 years, several ordinary Malaysians have accused Mahathir and UMNO Baru of destroying the nation; but these people were branded ungrateful, traitors and even apostates. Some received hate mail, death threats and were accused of being in the pay of the opposition, or the communists.

After Mahathir’s outburst against the Malays, the diehard defenders of Mahathir and UMNO Baru supporters, are silent. Did his remarks find their mark? Or did they feel numbed by his betrayal? Mahathir’s latest attack against the Malays is a paradox. He calls Malays lazy, then says that the NEP should continue and that Malays should take advantage of this affirmative action policy.

Mahathir introduced a culture of fear in Malaysians. Look at how Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is emulating Mahathir, and silencing any who disagrees with the government. The Sedition Act is being used to try to cripple the opposition and teach the rakyat a lesson.

Mahathir is wrong about the Malays. One man, Najib, has chosen to ignore Mahathir. That does not mean that all Malays are lazy, or liars, or cheats. The Internet, which Mahathir would love to ban, has opened up Malay minds and brought all Malaysians together. Malaysians have one common enemy. A repressive government! Perhaps that is why Mahathir is scared and feels betrayed by modern Malaysians. In a sense, we have all failed him. We have failed to become his mindless slaves. Yes, we are the recalcitrant children of Mahathir!

September 16: Time for Sober Reflection and Renewal


September 15, 2014

September 16: Time for Sober Reflection and Renewal

by Malaysiakini  http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/274584

STAND UP for MALAYSIA

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As Malaysia Day approaches, Putrajaya is reminded of the need to address discontent in Sabah and Sarawak over the perception that it is often left out of the Federation, said NGO Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM). For instance, its chairperson Tan Yew Sing contended, Malaysia has traditionally celebrated National Day together with Independence Day of West Malaysia on August 31, and the anniversary is often counted from 1957.This is despite the Malaysian Federation, the union of West and East Malaysia, coming into being on September 16, 1963.

“In recent years there has been rising discontent, especially from our Sabah and Sarawak brothers andshabery sisters, with the way our National Day is traditionally celebrated,” said Tan.  However, Tan said Communication and Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek’s announcement that from next year onwards August 31 will be clearly stipulated as Independence Day is a “step in the right direction.”

He added the Minister should go a step further by defining Malaysia Day on September 16 to also be National Day. “The Federal Constitution defines Merdeka Day as August 31,1957, it does not give a specific definition for National Day.As such the selection of a date for National Day is a matter of administrative action,” he said.

Irony in using Sedition Act

Tan also expressed concern about the recent string of arrests under the Sedition Act 1948, pointing out that it was ironic to use a colonial era law post-independence.”The British introduced the Sedition Act as a means to suppress the opposition to their rule. How ‘merdeka’ (independence) are we today if the law that the British used to advance their colonial interests, has not only being enhanced after our independence, but also has been applied selectively?” he said.

Tan added despite these prosecutions, groups that have been perpetuating hate speeches appear to go unpunished. As a coalition of NGOs from different backgrounds, GBM urges all the citizens of Malaysia to be part of the effort to bridge our differences – ethnically, spiritually or ideologically – and prove that diversity is strength that needs to be upheld as part and parcel of our nation building,” he said.

 

Secession is not a panacea for East Malaysia’s problems


September 14, 2014

Secession is not a panacea for East Malaysia’s problems

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.theantdaily.com

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe academics who are responsible for writing the history of Malaysia are better suited to work in the kitchen. Being expert at cooking the books, the tripe they feed us, is not history, but just a record of UMNO’s, UMNO-Baru’s and Islam’s milestones. Nothing else matters.

As a test, how many Sarawakians, or Malaysians, are aware that Sarawak achieved its independence from the British on 22 July 1963? Every school child knows that August 31 celebrates the independence of the Federated Sates of Malaya from the British, but do they realise the significance of September 16, 1963?

Some people are convinced that the rising discontent amongst East Malaysians is because Putrajaya has ignored their needs.Others disagree. They blame the leaders of East Malaysia, for being timid and beholden to Putrajaya.

It is bewildering that the man in the street blames politicians for the state of his country, but fails to recognise the folly of his ways. The people of East Malaysia are not blameless. Over several decades, the East Malaysians have voted for BN and returned the same party, which they repeatedly accuse of mistreatment.

In Semenanjung Malaysia, race and religion are used to divide people; but Putrajaya doesn’t have much to do in East Malaysia. Politicians from East Malaysia are so disorganised, they cannot even agree among themselves.  Malaysia Day, September 16 was only proclaimed as a national holiday, after five decades of neglect. Did East Malaysian politicians suddenly awake from their slumber?

Sabah and Sarawak should enjoy equal status with Malaya and yet, their roles have been diminished to mere states. Despite being major oil and gas-producing nations, they remain the poorest and third poorest “states” in Malaysia.

East Malaysians are angry at the disproportionate allocations from the oil revenue. They fear the unchecked rise of extremist Malay and Muslim groups, which threaten the social fabric of East Malaysia. The Allah issue and Bible row have heightened their fears. Where are the collective voices of the East Malaysian Christian and non-Muslim leaders?

Taib-Mahmud-300x199He kept UMNO-Baru out of Sarawak

The repellent Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, Sarawak’s Chief Minister for over three decades, may have displaced many indigenous people from their lands, may have kept the rural people ignorant, and ignored their plight, but he did keep UMNO-Baru out of Sarawak.

If East Malaysia were to secede (?), Semenanjung would lose the BN fixed deposit. West Malaysians will lose the oil revenue, but at least the electoral playing field will be evened-out.East Malaysians wanting self-rule, claim that the increased petroleum revenue, will help rebuild Sabah and Sarawak. More money does not equate to happiness.

East Malaysians boast that with secession, Sabah and Sarawak will become as developed as Singapore and Brunei. Without a change of attitude of its people, nothing will happen. East Malaysians proclaim that Sarawak and Sabah need leaders who are as “strong” as Singapore’s former PM, Lee Kuan Yew. No one should be that naïve! The irony is that Singaporeans look to Malaysians, to learn to rid themselves from their dictatorship. Singapore’s PAP government dreads the day UMNO-Baru is toppled.

Singapore is not free from corruption. Ask knowledgeable Singaporeans and Malaysians who are not blind. Malaysians are terrible at concealing their “bad” practices.One well known Sarawak lawyer, who normally represents members of a prominent Sarawak family, alleged that money from Sarawak’s ill gotten gains is stashed in Singapore, which he dubbed “the new Switzerland”. It is widely known that Dubai is the money laundering capital of the Middle East; Singapore fulfils that role for Southeast Asia.  Secession won’t necessarily stop the exploitation of the rural people.

Singapore deports or jails, anyone who shows the slightest whiff of dissent. Malaysians who protested in Singapore, about Malaysian issues, had their work permits revoked. A British author who wrote about Singapore’s death penalty was jailed. The Singapore government fears that its own people might emulate foreigners, who display any freedom of expression.

Bruneians enjoy many free perks, but has anyone wondered why Bruneians flock to border towns like Miri, for “normality”? Stop waxing lyrical about a place where double-standards are practised, where the subjects are ruled by hudud, but those draconian laws do not apply to the chosen few.

Secession is not a panacea for East Malaysia’s problems. Are East Malaysians patient? The situation will get worse before it improves. Skilled and experienced East Malaysians will be needed to rebuild their countries, but will they return?

Under Taib, the environment was at the mercy of loggers and indiscriminate “developers”. Large tracts of forest and coastline were destroyed. Secession won’t save the environment, unless the corrupt politicians who offer their cronies protection, are weeded out first.

Dayak Headhunter

Politicians line their own pockets with the rakyat’s money. After secession, will politicians share the extra revenue with the rakyat, or will they continue to siphon most, if not all, of this extra money? Does one become less greedy, when more money becomes available?

Increased revenue from oil may result in the average East Malaysian, receiving RM800 instead of the token sum of RM500. Will he then forget the promised roads, bridges, schools and hospitals?Nothing will change unless corrupt politicians are charged and punished for their crimes. Democracy can return, once a free media, an independent police force and judiciary are installed, and incorruptible politicians are elected in a clean and fair process, in Sabah and Sarawak.-www.theantdaily.com

Restoring Faith in the Judiciary’s integrity


September 10, 2014

Restoring Faith in the Judiciary’s integrity

by Koon Yew Yin
Despite being let down by our judiciary in the past, the latest verdict on the Teoh Beng Hock case shows us our judiciary is still just.

beng-hockWill Justice be finally done?

Malaysia’s Judiciary has taken a severe beating in the last few years in regard to its perceived lack of fairness and lack of adherence to justice. Notorious cases such as those involving Lina Joy, Anwar Ibrahim and Nizar vs Zambry among others have raised doubts as to whether our judges – especially in cases with politically sensitive outcomes – are able to arrive at fair and just decisions.

Gani PatailPublic concern that our courts – including at the highest level – may in fact be filled with partisan, unfair or even corrupt judges, has been rising non-stop since the Mahathir period. This includes the present batch of ridiculous sedition cases which have made the Attorney-General’s Chambers  (pic The A-G) a laughing stock among knowledgeable legal circles all over the world. It has also led many to conclude that the Malaysian Judiciary is under tremendous political pressure when arriving at their judgements.

Why are there incompetent judges?

The highly respected former Court of Appeal judge N H Chan (right) when commenting on the number ofNH-Chan-Recent incompetent judges in Malaysia concluded that there was something very wrong with our system of appointing judges.

Many people from the legal fraternity tend to agree with him. There was a time when judges were appointed from the cream of the legal profession and the law departments in our universities produced graduates who knew their law in-depth.

With the decline in educational standards especially after the implementation of the New Economic Policy, it became inevitable that the standard of law graduates in the country – and with it, also the standard of judges recruited to administer justice – would also fall.

VK LIngamApart from the decline in educational standards, the factor of politically biased appointments has played a role. The Lingam (pic left) case and the shocking disclosures arising from the Royal Commission of Inquiry in particular showed clearly that the appointment of judges in the country has been tainted; and that there was evidence of ethical and criminal misconduct by lawyer Lingam, various judges, politicians and businessmen on the matter of judicial appointments.

Despite this finding, the Attorney-General chose not to put Lingam in the dock. This was not because no law had been broken but because of the fear that the skeletons that would emerge from the closet would bring down the government.

We are still living with the legacy of a compromised Judiciary and the dark shadows cast by prominent members of the judiciary who are more interested in the pursuit of power and self interest rather than with the pursuit of justice.

Importance of the Teoh Beng Hock case

However, every now and then, a verdict comes from out of the blue which shows that there are also good and honourable judges in the system who are not interested in the pursuit of power and self interest and who are willing to stand firm in the administration of impartial and principled justice. The most recent example arrived in the form of the Teoh Beng Hock case, a landmark case, which has riveted the nation for over five years now.Members of the public who were expecting this case to go unpunished by our judiciary were pleasantly surprised to see this was not to be.

Abu KassimAs a result of the latest Court of Appeal verdict, we see on social media praises heaped on the three appeal court judges – Ariff Yusuf, Mah Weng Kwai and Hamid Sutan for striking down the earlier open verdict and refusing to set aside the coroner’s open verdict in the inquest of Teoh Beng Hock.

In their unanimous decision, the panel of judges held that Teoh’s death was caused by multiple injuries from a fall from the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam as a result of, or which was accelerated by an unlawful act or acts of persons unknown, inclusive of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers who were involved in his arrest and investigation.

Police must start investigations

Teoh’s sister, Lee Lan has since lodged a report at the Shah Alam Police Headquarters to speed up police investigations. The Police must remember that several MACC officers caused the death of Teoh and the culprits must be caught and punished adequately.

Whatever happens next, it is important that we should not lose faith in the integrity of our Judiciary which forms the first line of defence in the protection of our constitutional rights.It is not only judges who must exercise vigilance so that their independence is not compromised by political, legislative and other pressures, it is all Malaysians who must stand firm so that there is no political or executive interference with the judicial process.

PKR, doing a fine job of crushing dreams


July 30, 2014

Message to Anwar Ibrahim and Cohorts

PKR, doing a fine job of crushing dreams

After pledging to effect political reform, all PKR has succeeded in doing in Selangor is plunge it into chaos, making it the laughing stock of the nation.

“Many voters today concede that their vote for PKR was a mistake as they have been forced to put up with a ‘comedy of errors’ literally, with the operative word here being ‘errors’, in the last one year.”-Fernandez.

COMMENT

July 29, 2014

Dear PKR leaders,

AzizahWhat happened to Ubah sebelum Parah?

I am a Selangor resident who unashamedly and proudly voted for PKR in the last two general elections.I voted for reforms, a better Selangor and a “new Malaysia” after being sick and tired of the UMNO brand of politics.

Today after six years, my fellow voters in Selangor will agree that many of us are disillusioned with the state of affairs both in Selangor and within PKR. The party’s many instances of infighting, the practice of nepotism, the abuse of power among their power crazy leaders and the sheer lack of strategy and direction have left many voters wondering what happened to their dream of change that was promised.

The Kajang Move was an excellent example of a poorly thought through strategy. It was doomed to fail from the start. This is a typical case of a blind “de facto leader” who only seems to be promoting his personal interests while indulging in self-glorification (He only wants to be the Prime Minister of Malaysia).

Whilst the prudent financial management of the state’s coffers is commendable, the irony is that the Menteri Besar has failed to address basic issues that matter most to voters. Poor rubbish collection, water shortages, increases in the cost of living, poor public transportation, clogged drains and filthy eateries are just some of the issues voters face on a daily basis.

Many voters today concede that their vote for PKR was a mistake as they have been forced to put up with a ‘comedy of errors’ literally, with the operative word here being ‘errors’, in the last one year.

The writing on the wall is clear.

Abe's StatueUnless PKR has the political will to reform itself and address critical issues affecting the daily lives of the people of Selangor, it can rest assured it will not retain power in Selangor in the next elections. This would be extremely sad as many of us in the state had places our hopes on CHANGE-UBAH.

Let me conclude with a thought-provoking quote from President Abraham Lincoln that should serve as a reminder to our leaders from both sides of the political divide.” You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

*W. Fernandez is a FMT reader.

US penalises Malaysia for shameful human trafficking record


June 23, 2014

COMMENT: Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Record

Congratulations to the Ministry of Home Affairs, The Inspector-General of Police of the Royal Malaysianimage Police and related agencies under the charge of Home Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Zahid Hamidi on our human trafficking record.  Tier 3 is not bad; we could have been worse. As a reward, we deserve what is due to us in terms of likely punitive actions from Najib’s strategic partner, the Obama Administration, for doing a brilliant job that has enabled us to join the ranks of Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Frankly, coming after the MH370 debacle, this downgrade is another blemish to our image. But aren’t we  known for shooting overselves in the foot! I wonder what our beloved Prime Minister would say if he should meet President Obama again. I suspect the answer would likely be: “Mr President, we are doing about our best and given this downgrade by the State Department, you can be assured that we will be double our efforts in fighting this scourge.”–Din Merican

US penalises Malaysia for shameful human trafficking record

Continued failure to curb traffickers prompts US to downgrade Malaysia in its annual Trafficking in Persons report

by Kate Hodal @ the guardian.com, Friday 20 June 2014 13.59 BST

The US has downgraded Malaysia to the lowest ranking in its annual human trafficking report, relegating the southeast Asian nation to the same category as Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. The move could result in economic sanctions and loss of development aid.

Malaysia’s relegation to tier 3 in the US state department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report – published on Friday – indicates that the country has categorically failed to comply with the most basic international requirements to prevent trafficking and protect victims within its borders.

Human rights activists in Malaysia and abroad welcomed the downgrade as proof of the government’s lax law enforcement, and lack of political will, in the face of continued NGO and media reports on trafficking and slavery.

“Malaysia is not serious about curbing human trafficking at all,” said Aegile Fernandez, Director of Tenaganita, a local charity that works directly with trafficking victims. The order of the day is profits and corruption. Malaysia protects businesses, employers and agents [not victims] – it is easier to arrest, detain, charge and deport the migrant workers so that you protect employers and businesses.”

According to this year’s TiP report – which ranks 188 nations according to their willingness and efforts to combat trafficking, and is considered the benchmark index for global anti-trafficking commitments – trafficking victims are thought to comprise the vast majority of Malaysia’s estimated 2 million illegal migrant labourers, who are sent to work in the agriculture, construction, sex, textile or domestic labour industries.

Many of the victims are migrants who have willingly come to Malaysia from neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia and Bangladesh, attracted by Malaysia’s large supply of jobs and high regional wages. But once in Malaysia they fall prey to forced labour at the hands of their employers, recruitment companies or organised crime syndicates, who refuse payment, withhold their documents or force them into indentured servitude.

The Malaysian government has continuously failed to provide basic rights protections to migrant workers and instead has created a system where unscrupulous labour brokers, corrupt police and abusive employers can have a field day,” says Phil Robertson, Asia’s Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch.

Refugees are particularly vulnerable to trafficking within Malaysia’s borders, the report states, as the government does not grant them formal refugee status or allow them to work legally. As a result, many of the 10,000 refugee Filipino muslim children who reside in the Sabah region are subjected to forced begging, while reports of abuse, detainment and torture by Malaysian traffickers of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in western Burma made headlines earlier this year.

“When you Google ‘Malaysia’, it’s among the five worst countries for refugees,” said Lia Syed, Executive Director of the Malaysia Social Research Insitute, which supports refugees. “There is no policy for refugees in Malaysia at all. They are not recognised, they do not have legal status, they are just considered illegal migrants. It doesn’t matter what country they come from, what their story is, they do not get any support officially from the government.”

Malaysia’s downgrade to tier 3 is an automatic relegation after four years on the tier 2 watchlist and it is the third time in seven years that the country has sunk to the lowest ranking.The downgrade is likely to be seen as a considerable blow to Malaysia’s image and is sure to strain diplomatic relations. Malaysia is a strategic US partner in President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to the east, with the US serving as Malaysia’s largest foreign investor and fourth-largest trading partner.

The downgrade could spell economic sanctions and restrictions on US foreign assistance and access to institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. However, such punishments can be waived under national security considerations.

While Malaysia has increased its preventative efforts against trafficking via public service announcements, there were fewer identifications of trafficking victims, fewer prosecutions and fewer convictions this year than in 2012, the report stated, with poor victim treatment posing a “significant impediment” to successful prosecutions. Authorities not only failed to investigate cases brought to them by NGOs, they also failed to recognised victims or indications of trafficking, and instead treated cases as immigration violations. Some immigration officials were also accused of being involved in the smuggling of trafficking victims, yet the government did not investigate any such potential individuals or cases.

“Unfortunately Malaysia’s victim care regime is fundamentally flawed,” said Luis C deBaca, the ranking state department official for combating trafficking. He pointed to Malaysia’s use of detention centres for people, mainly young women, identified as having been trafficked into the country for illegal purposes.

 “Malaysia has a strong focus on getting rid of illegal aliens rather than a progressive compassionate response to its many victims of trafficking. There has been lots of promised future action but no signs of things happening on the ground to deal with their significant problems,” he said.

 Key recommendations issued by the US included amending the current anti-trafficking law to allow victims to travel, work and reside outside government facilities, and increasing efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish any public officials who might profit from trafficking or exploiting victims.

Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister, Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said earlier this year that the country was in a “very difficult position” as it knew it needed to increase trafficking victims’ rights, yet it didn’t want to encourage illegal migration to its borders.”

“If we allow these people to start working, everybody will start coming here,” Wan Junaidi told reporters after a conference on human trafficking.


 

“When you Google ‘Malaysia’, it’s among the five worst countries for refugees,” said Lia Syed, executive director of the Malaysia Social Research Insitute, which supports refugees. “There is no policy for refugees in Malaysia at all. They are not recognised, they do not have legal status, they are just considered illegal migrants. It doesn’t matter what country they come from, what their story is, they do not get any support officially from the government.”

 

Malaysia’s downgrade to tier 3 is an automatic relegation after four years on the tier 2 watchlist and it is the third time in seven years that the country has sunk to the lowest ranking.

 

The downgrade is likely to be seen as a considerable blow to Malaysia’s image and is sure to strain diplomatic relations. Malaysia is a strategic US partner in President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to the east, with the US serving as Malaysia’s largest foreign investor and fourth-largest trading partner.

 

The downgrade could spell economic sanctions and restrictions on US foreign assistance and access to institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. However, such punishments can be waived under national security considerations.

 

While Malaysia has increased its preventative efforts against trafficking via public service announcements, there were fewer identifications of trafficking victims, fewer prosecutions and fewer convictions this year than in 2012, the report stated, with poor victim treatment posing a “significant impediment” to successful prosecutions. Authorities not only failed to investigate cases brought to them by NGOs, they also failed to recognised victims or indications of trafficking, and instead treated cases as immigration violations. Some immigration officials were also accused of being involved in the smuggling of trafficking victims, yet the government did not investigate any such potential individuals or cases.

 

“Unfortunately Malaysia’s victim care regime is fundamentally flawed,” said Luis CdeBaca, the ranking state department official for combating trafficking. He pointed to Malaysia’s use of detention centres for people, mainly young women, identified as having been trafficked into the country for illegal purposes.

 

“Malaysia has a strong focus on getting rid of illegal aliens rather than a progressive compassionate response to its many victims of trafficking. There has been lots of promised future action but no signs of things happening on the ground to deal with their significant problems,” he said.

 

Key recommendations issued by the US included amending the current anti-trafficking law to allow victims to travel, work and reside outside government facilities, and increasing efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish any public officials who might profit from trafficking or exploiting victims.

 

Malaysia’s deputy home minister, Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said earlier this year that the country was in a “very difficult position” as it knew it needed to increase trafficking victims’ rights, yet it didn’t want to encourage illegal migration to its borders.

 

“If we allow these people to start working, everybody will start coming here,” Wan Junaidi told reporters after a conference on human trafficking.