Malaysia pays for arrogance, says Irene Fernandez

June 17, 2009

Malaysia pays for ‘arrogance’, says PKR’s Migrant Rights Activist Irene Fernandez

by Tarani Palani & Wong Pheak Zern

US State Department Report 2009Migrant rights activist Irene Fernandez is not surprised that the US State Department has placed “arrogant” Malaysia back in its blacklist, in the just-released ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2009’.

The report revealed that Malaysia shares the blacklist with 16 other countries, including Sudan, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia. Malaysia had been removed from the list last year.

“It is a big shame to the country. We are economically developed but on social aspects like commitment on protection, we are on par with Zimbabwe,” said Irene.

“There is a lot of arrogance in the way Malaysia sees migrants and refugees, and this attitude is reflected in the way we manage issues.”

The report scrutinised the efforts of more than 173 countries in combating trafficking of persons for forced labour, prostitution, military service and other purposes.

“The Malaysian government continues to be in a state of denial. This is the crux of the problem. There is no dialogue or no consequential arrests (of officials)… no political commitment in order to reduce the issue,” Irene said.

The report also made reference to earlier findings by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee two months ago, which highlighted the involvement of Immigration Department officials in trafficking Burmese refugees.

Although this was publically confirmed by the Prime Minister, “no officials were arrested, prosecuted, or convicted for involvement in trafficking during the reporting period”.

Irene pinpointed the lack of “political commitment and political will”, despite calls by civil society groups for a comprehensive policy. “There needs to be a rights-based approach such as giving equal treatment to migrants and refugees (as well as) transparency in terms of the conduct of officials and open investigation of complaints.”

Even the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) “feels strangled” when it receives complaints, she said, adding that this speaks volumes of the government’s lack of action.

‘Slow response

Transparency International Malaysia’s former president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the report should be given “high priority and attention” as its findings are recognised internationally. He said the government should have taken remedial action when it was aware of the “high possibility” that Malaysia would end up on the blacklist. “Unfortunately, as in many cases, we are slow in responding. And now we face the serious implications and consequences.”

Suhakam vice-chairperson Simon Sipaun echoed this, adding that the enforcement authorities have worsened the problem. “(Suhakam) is already doing its best in handling complaints. Now it is up to the government to deal with the problem as it has more authority and facilities compared to us,” he added.

On Domestic Workers

In a separate development, Migrant Care, an organisation for Indonesian migrant labour rights, demanded clear enforcement of the mandatory day off for domestic workers in Malaysia. While provision for a mandatory day off is in the Malaysian Employment Act 1961, this has yet to be extended to include maids, it said in a statement.

The group also said the recruitments and placement practices by the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies must be addressed as “almost 100 percent” of the maids are forced to sign the contracts without being briefed on the contents. It claimed there are violations of religion rights, where Muslim maids are forced to handle pork and dogs, which are prohibited by Islam.

6 thoughts on “Malaysia pays for arrogance, says Irene Fernandez

  1. There were credible reports of Malaysian immigration officials’ involvement in the trafficking of Burmese refugees along the Malaysia-Thai border. Immigration officials allegedly received RM700 (approximately $200) per person. Several local NGOs estimated immigration officials handed over a significant number of Burmese refugees transported to the border to traffickers. Traffickers demanded ransom, ranging from RM1,000 ($300) for children to RM1,900 ($560) for adults, in exchange for freedom and transportation back to Malaysia. Informed sources estimated 20 percent of the victims were unable to pay the ransom and were sold for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation. Some reports indicated traffickers sold small children not freed by ransom to child beggar syndicates in the region.


  2. No one seems to care for the safety and health of migrant workers; in the recent collapse of a supermaket being demolished, migrant workers workers gave their lives..basically due to the negligence of the employers..there is a lot of hot air generated in the press and the President of NIOSH (God bless the man..the only voice which cares) came up with a statement…but it has been conveniently further action..So what do you get by being a foreign worker here…insecutiry and poor safety and health conditions…”If you cannot tyreat people right…do exploit them”

  3. It is a “bapak Borek, anak rintik” scenario…. When we have government leaders engaging in blatant and lucrative corruption and getting away with it ( kapal selam komisyen, anyone?), can we expect the civil service personnel who are witnesses to the corruption to not follow suit? Why should the big bucks be exclusive to the ruling elite? The civil service must feel that they are entitled to it as well! Thus we have all kind and type of corruption in every level of the government… Police, judicial, immigration, PWD, RTD…you name it, all of them are tainted… We all know who started the blatant act of corruption and cronyism! and this is the final result…the slow destruction of Malaysia… A slow and degrading implosion of Malaysia…. We didn’t need outside enemy to destroy us ( remember Singapore as the bogeyman for 22 odd years?) we have enough enemies in our own government itself to destroy Malaysia… It is fitting that Malaysia is classes together with other 3rd world countries because we have 3rd world leaders since 2 decades ago. Judge Tun Salleh Abas was correct when he surmises that Malaysia is govern by stone age leaders with stone age mentality and politics!…. Anybody joining me in wearing a paper bag over our head? A black paper bag too, mind you!

  4. We have gone through a few so called socio-political Blogs of late and come to a general conclusion that most of them are reactive and spins the hot controversial issues of the day making the headlines, with a few taking a die-hard pro or anti Barisan & the rest ranters of a low grade. With one or two cyber amateur bulletin boards and a few with the intelligence level that of lost children.

    We are happy to say yours is unquestionably one of a few excellent proponents of the timely and fair reporting genre , with substance. Keep it up and hot !

  5. One new word to characterize the real 1Malaysia spirit: “Kugan-ize.”
    Rela and other such outfits are organized thugs in guise of ‘nationalists’. If the Malaysians themselves are not protected and are instead ‘terrorized’ by the very instituitions set up to protect them, there can be no inkling of ‘human rights’ and humanity, by those wielding the big stick on migrants.
    Sadly we are a nation of subhumans, semihumans and ethnocentric tribalism.

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