Loading...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

End the Rela bounty scheme (The Malaysiakini published version)

End the Rela bounty scheme
Charles Hector
Jan 31, 07 3:00pm



Migrants are human beings and should not be treated like stray dogs. The policy and practice of paying members of the People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) RM80 for each undocumented migrant they arrest must be stopped.

Rela is also asking for the training allowance of RM24.20 for lower ranking members and RM34.20 for officers to be extended for those involved in operations (The Star, Dec 27, 2006).

Members of the corps had reportedly arrested 17,700 people believed to be illegal immigrants and screened 94,010 people up to last September.

Of the 17,700, Indonesians made up 12,076, Myanmar (2,089), Indians (963), Bangladeshis (923), Thais (402), Chinese (43) and others (1,200).

What must be noted is that 76,310 others were unnecessarily subjected to the uncomfortable experience of being screened.

If, by screening, it means squatting in sun and waiting - as happened to some 1,500 at the Sepang District Council compound to have their particulars checked during a Ops Tegas raid - then this was a blatant violation of their rights.

Recent reports reveal that many migrants are needlessly arrested and forced to spend time in detention centres.

It is also worth noting that the 17,700 arrested are only believed to be illegal immigrants - many could really be documented workers, unnecessarily arrested because their documents were in the hands of employers at the time.

What about employers?

Interestingly, only four employers were arrested in the same period. Surely all the 17,700 persons believed to be illegal immigrants were not just in the employ or in the premises of four employers.

This is shocking. I hope that it is not just small-time employers with little or no political connections, but also big ones.

I believe that those who employ undocumented migrants are the ones responsible for the increasing numbers of the latter.

The others responsible are unscrupulous and/or false agents, and those who facilitate the smuggling of persons into the country. Sadly, it seems that Rela and the other authorities have not acted against them.

Last year, we also heard how some errant employers of undocumented migrants had even gotten away with not paying wages by reason of their being undocumented. Action against errant employers must be increased - and if the employer is a company, then action must be taken against all directors and also majority shareholders.

Alleged employers of undocumented migrants must be immediately investigated, arrested and charged in the same way that those believed to be illegal migrants are being treated. Why the special treatment for employers?

Overcrowded detention centres

Malaysia has been arresting allegedly undocumented migrants with great enthusiasm, leading to overcrowded detention centres.

On Sept 30 last year, Home Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad was quoted as saying: “There are about 7,467 illegal immigrants detained in 15 centres around the country and based on the progression of arrests made by Rela, we are expected to face a crisis for space by January.

“One of the biggest centres like the Semenyih Immigration Detention Depot can only take in a maximum of 1,500 detainees while smaller ones can only accommodate up to a maximum of 500 people.”

It is January now, and one wonders whether the detention centres are as overcrowded as anticipated.

This is yet another reason why Malaysia needs to seriously review its strategy and policies concerning undocumented migrants. Clearly, mass arrests and deportations have not been working.

Apart from targeting employers who are providing employment and persons smuggling in persons, we should move towards a ‘come, find a job’ and self-registration strategy. We cannot deny that Malaysia needs the services of migrant workers.

Posse without a sheriff

But what is most crucial at this stage is to immediately put an end to Malaysia’s use of volunteer vigilantes in the crackdown on undocumented migrants. There are just too many incidents involving Rela members that have brought shame to the nation and its people.

What is disturbing is that the arms-bearing Rela members can go out, stop and search persons, enter premises and arrest persons without the presence of police or immigration enforcement officers. This is just not right and may lead to abuse of powers.

There must be at least a professional enforcer of the law to accompany the volunteer vigilantes as they go out on duty.

The government’s justification in using Rela is that there are not enough immigration and police personnel to deal with hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants. But surely it is unsafe to send out volunteers without leadership and guidance.

We are a civilised nation with an elected government and trained professional law enforcers. If the human resources are inadequate, then the proper thing to do is to appoint more police and immigration enforcement officers, not arm civilians to enforce the law.

If cash incentives are given to the police and immigration enforcement officers, as is apparently done for Rela members, I am sure that they too will be more efficient in performing their duties.

Give Rela a rest

In light of allegations, it is time to review the use of Rela and its powers, which exceed those of even the police.

There have been too many complaints of abuse including assaults, deaths, property damage, trespass, invasion of privacy and theft by migrants as well as citizens. Enough is enough.

Rela members must be rounded up and rested, and the police force and other enforcement agencies must take back the role of policing Malaysia.

The Essential (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat) Regulations 1966 must be repealed. If need be, a new law must be enacted for Rela - one that will redefine its role and duties on possibly providing protection for Malaysians and curbing the incidence of crimes like snatch thefts.

Rela could also focus on curbing corruption involving the police and other enforcement officers, councillors and elected representatives.

There is no situation in Malaysia that can currently justify it operating under a state of Emergency. It is time for the government and the King to revoke all proclamations of Emergency and repeal all legislation enacted during such periods.

It could start with the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979.


CHARLES HECTOR is a human rights activist and a lawyer.

Monday, January 29, 2007

New face, same body : Abdullah Badawi is PM, and Mahathir is no more BUT ...

aliran logo
New face, same body
Abdullah Badawi is PM, and Mahathir is no more BUT �

by Charles Hector
Aliran Monthly 2003:11



Please support our work by buying a copy of our print publication, Aliran Monthly, from your nearest news-stand. Better still take out a subscription now. We also welcome donations.

badawi3 (5K)
Abdullah never once did oppose what was done
Abdullah Badawi is now the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the head of the Barisan Nasional and the leader of UMNO, and Mahathir has stepped down after 22 years in these positions. BUT we must not forget that we are still under the Barisan Nasional government. This is something that many of us are forgetting.

Many Malaysians are celebrating as though there has been a change in the ruling party � as though Abdullah is from some other party, who has just come into power. Memorandums containing expectations of change are being sent. Forums and public discussions are being held. Many are hoping for great changes in the policies and practice of the Barisan Nasional government.

We are kidding ourselves because the same persons and political parties are still in power, and the Barisan nasional still controls more than a two thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat � thus having the capacity to amend our Federal Constitution as and when it chooses.

Mahathir Was Just One Man

Mahathir cannot and should not be held solely responsible for all the actions and omissions of the Barisan Nasional government. Mahathir cannot be held solely accountable for all those detentions without trials and for all those repressive laws that curtail freedoms and deprives the fullest expression of our rights.

He was just one man, and Abdullah was in the Cabinet as the Deputy Prime Minister together with many others. To say that because Mahathir was at the helm, all the others were shackled, their tongues were tied and they were deprived of the ability to dissent is a joke. Abdullah was also then the second man in the UMNO.

start_quote (1K) The Barisan Nasional still rules. There is no real reason to celebrate the departure of Mahathir, who, by the way, was not ousted but left on his own accord, handing over the premiership to his deputy, Abdullah.end_quote (1K)
The responsibility for all the actions and omissions under the premiership of Mahathir should and must be borne by all the members of the Cabinet, all the members of UMNO, all the members of the Barisan Nasional component parties and, of course, all you Malaysians out there who continued to vote in the Barisan Nasional into power over the years.

It is wrong and a gross injustice to solely blame our good doctor Mahathir for all the failings and wrongdoings of the Barisan Nasional government.

Some say that �Mahathir was a dictator�; so, all those in the Executive, the Cabinet, the UMNO Supreme Council and the Barisan Nasional component parties had no choice but to be silent and to follow whatever he said and endorse whatever he did or failed to do � even though they personally did not agree with it. This is ludicrous and totally unacceptable.

We do not live in a feudal state, whereby all subjects have no choice but to follow what the King says. We are a democracy � and I believe that when decisions are made in the Cabinet, the Supreme Council of UMNO and the Barisan Nasional, each and every member has the right to dissent and ultimately, the right to vote on any matter of concern. The PM, I believe, did not have the power to veto decisions of the majority.

Culpable And Guilty

Therefore whatever was done or not done is the collective responsibility of Cabinet members, UMNO Supreme Council members and Barisan Nasional supreme body/council members, amongst others. For all good deeds of the Barisan Nasional government, a pat on the back should be given and for all bad deeds all these persons in positions of leadership should be blamed.

Remember the Nuremberg trials, which found the persons in government and other positions of authority, under the leadership of Hitler guilty of crimes against humanity? Hitler was the leader, but that did not absolve others in position of leadership and decision-making from culpability for the crimes against humanity committed during World War II � it did not matter much whether they were following orders or not.

Likewise in the Malaysian context, each and every person, the first being Badawi himself, is guilty for all the fumbles, wrongdoings, failings, inadequacies, injustices and violations against human rights perpetrated during the time that Mahathir was the prime minister. And as far as the �public� record is concerned, I believe that Abdullah never once did oppose what was done during the period when Mahathir was prime minister.

Gerakan, a major component party of the Barisan Nasional, did at one time - if memory does not fail me - adopt a position that the Internal Security Act (ISA) was unjust and that the ISA should be repealed even though that position was contrary to the position of the Barisan Nasional government. Now, today, I am not sure what their position is with regard to the ISA and other preventive detention laws.

Rais Yatim, when he was out of the the Cabinet and working as a practising lawyer, took the position that the ISA should be repealed. But when he later joined the cabinet, he changed his position with regard to the ISA. Why did he change his mind? If he had changed his personal position after serious re-thinking and reflection, then it is all right. But if the change in position was merely because he was now part of the cabinet, then it is wrong. Later on, when he is no more in the Cabinet or in the government, will he again have a change of mind with regard to the ISA? Do not be like the �lallang� bending according to where the wind blows; stick to your principles and positions.

No Reason To Celebrate

Our �leaders�, ministers and members of Parliament, amongst others, from the Barisan Nasional must realize that we are all human beings � each with a brain, a mind, a conscience and a tongue, and it is all right to have a different viewpoint about matters and issues. If one is part of the Cabinet, and ther Cabinet has made a decision about a particular matter, then that decision must be upheld and followed. But at the same time, one can also still have a personal position about matters.

The stand taken by Gerakan once with regard to the ISA - it is not certain if they still hold that view - is praiseworthy. In a democracy, the majority decision is carried out and implemented. But the minority dissenting view is never silenced. The minority have the right to continue lobbying for their views to be adopted if they believe them to be right. Who knows, one day, it may be this �minority view� that prevails,

It is sad that in Malaysia we do not often enough read about MPs from the Barisan National or the different component parties of the Barisan Nasional taking a view different from that of the government and/or even the Prime Minister.

The Barisan Nasional still rules. There is no real reason to celebrate the departure of Mahathir, who, by the way, was not ousted but left on his own accord, handing over the premiership to his deputy, Abdullah. If a new political party or a coalition of parties comes into power, then maybe there is a reason to send memorandums and recommendations to the new government and to the new Prime Minister � but not in this case.


(Originally written 11/12/2003)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

RELA’S “CATCH A MIGRANT AND GET PAID FOR IT” POLICY MUST END

RELA’S “CATCH A MIGRANT AND GET PAID FOR IT” POLICY MUST END

PROFESSIONAL LAW ENFORCERSMUST REPLACE VOLUNTEERS

Migrants are human beings and should not be treated as stray dogs, and the policy and practice of paying members of the People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) RM80-00 for each undocumented migrant must be stopped). Now RELA is also asking for allowance of RM24.20 for lower ranking members and RM34.20 for officers given to those participating in trainings and courses could be extended for operations (Star, RELA seeks allowance for staff during ops).

Syed Shahir, President MTUC during his opening speech at the MTUC/ILO Follow up Workshop on Migrant Workers in Malaysia held on 4-6 December 2006 said that this practice of using these “uniformed part-timers who have some policing powers, who were offered and did receive cash rewards for each migrant arrested as an economic incentive and this was most disturbing and embarrassing.” He also went on to say that it was sad that Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad was reported to have said RELA members would be again roped in for the planned crackdown on undocumented workers in 2007(Star, 14/10/2006).

MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Michael Chong claimed that the reward offered had made RELA volunteers desperate to nab as many illegals as possible. He said this when handing over RM,2,400-00, being donations, collected by residents of Old Klang Road’s 4th mile area, to the widows, both of whom had two young children. Their husbands, Ahmad Apik, 35, and Edy Sathurrohman, 26, both Indonesians, drowned allegedly after jumping into the Klang river while trying to evade the RELA personnel. Let’s not forget the words of Michael Chong :” “These people may be illegals [undocumented], but they are still human beings,” ). A wife loses her husband and 2 children lost their fathers, and RM1,200-00 in donations is a far cry from justice.

Its was reported that RELA arrested a total of 17,700 people believed to be illegal immigrants and screened 94,010 people up to September 2006. Out of that 17,700, Indonesians comprised the highest number of those arrested at 12,076, followed by those from Myanmar (2,089), Indians (963), Bangladeshis (923), Thais (402), Chinese (43) and others (1,200). (Star, RELA arrests 17,700 suspected illegals)

What must be noted is that 94,010 people (or 76,310) persons were unnecessarily subjected to the uncomfortable experience of being screened. An by screening, if this meant squatting in sun waiting as what happened to some 1,500 who had to squat waiting at the Sepang District Council compound to have their particulars checked during one of the Ops Tegas (see picture in Star,

he number of illegal immigrants in detention centres nationwide is expected to reach critical stage by January next year. Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said: “There are about 7,467 illegal immigrants detained in 15 centres around the country and based on the progression of arrests made by RELA, we are expected to face a crisis for space by January. One of the biggest centers like the Semenyih Immigration Detention centre can only take in a maximum of 1,500 detainees while smaller ones can only accommodate up to a maximum of 500 people. (Star, Number of illegals set to reach critical stage).It is January 2007 now, and one wonders whether Detention Centres are overcrowded now.

This is yet another reason why Malaysia needs to seriously review its strategy and policies concerning undocumented migrants. Clearly, mass arrests and deportations have not been working – and maybe we need to look at targeting employers that are providing employment, persons who are smuggling persons into the country and also maybe we should move towards a “come, find a job and self-registration” strategy. We cannot deny that Malaysia needs migrants.

But more importantly, what is most crucial at this stage is to immediately put an end to Malaysia’s usage volunteer ‘vigilantes’ in the crackdown on undocumented migrants for there are just too many incidences involving the RELA that is bringing shame to the nation and its people.

ESSENTIAL (IKATAN RELAWAN RAKYAT) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2005

The powers of 70,000[i] strong RELA was expanded in early 2005 when the Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) (Amendment) Regulations 2005, which came into operation on 1 February 2005. What was being amended was a Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) Regulations 1966 [P.U. 33/1966], which is a Regulations that came into being by virtue of powers provided for in Emergency (Essential Powers) Act, 1964 (30/64) (now the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979).

Section 6 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979, stated :- “For so long as the Proclamation of Emergency referred to in the preamble to this Act remains in force, the regulations made under the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act, 1964 (30/64) (except those regulations which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may by notification in the Gazette declare not to be in force) shall be in force and shall have effect as if they have been made under this Act; and the regulations may be amended, modified or repealed as if they have been made under this Act.”.

Now, given the fact the Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) Regulations 1966 has now been amended Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) (Amendment) Regulations 2005, it settles once again that the Proclamation of Emergency issued by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on 15 May 1969 is still in force. Malaysia is still under a state of Emergency, and this is ludicrous.

The 2005 amendment to the 1966 Regulations now expressly allows a RELA member “where it has reasonable belief that any person is a terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant or an occupier, to stop the person in order to make all such inquiries or to require the production of all such documents or other things as the competent authority may consider necessary”. It also permits the RELA to arrest without a warrant, may without a warrant and with or without assistance [of the police or immigration officers] enter and search any premises and also stop and search any vessel, vehicle or person, whether in a public place or not. The powers stated in this paragraph is exercisable if there is written authorization from a competent authority, who is defined as being the Director General(Ketua Pengarah), Deputy Director General(Timbalan Ketua Pengarah) and such other officers of the Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat as appointed by the Home Affairs Minister.

What is even interesting is that the 2005 amendments also provides for protection to these RELA volunteers whereby regulation 16 of the 2005 Amending Regulations clearly states : “The Public Authorities Protection Act 1948 shall apply to any action, suit, prosecution or proceedings against the Ketua Pengarah Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat, Timbalan Ketua Pengarah Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat or any member of the Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat in respect of any act, neglect or default done or committed by him in good faith or any omission omitted by him in good faith, in such capacity.".

A POSSE OF VOLUNTEERS WITHOUT A SHERIFF

What is disturbing is that the arms-bearing RELA members can go out stop, search, enter premises and arrest persons on their own without even the police or an immigration enforcement officer, and this is just not right and may lead to abuse of powers. There must be at least a professional enforcer of the law, be it a police or immigration personnel that accompanies these volunteers ‘vigilantes’. ’as they go out there performing their ‘duties’ The government’s possible justification in using RELA is that they do not have enough immigration and police personnel to deal with hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants in Malaysia – but surely it is very unsafe to send normal volunteers without any leadership and on-site guidance of at least one police or immigration personnel.

We are a civilized nation, and we have an appointed government who have appointed and trained professional law enforcers – and if there is inadequate law enforcers, then the proper thing to do is to appoint more police and immigration enforcement officers – not just go out and try to get volunteers with arms to enforce the law.

If cash incentives were also given to the police and immigration enforcement officers, like what is apparently done for the RELA members, I am sure that they too will be more efficient in the performance of their duties.

RELA ACTIONS IS CREATING A BAD NAME FOR MALAYSIA

It may be true that the RELA has been effective in arresting about 19,000 foreigners since February 2005 until October 2006, but at the same time it has visited injustices to so many more persons – Malaysians, documented migrants and others. A sampling of RELA behaviour can be seen from facts that have been taken from media reports, as follows:

* A landscape company spent six harrowing days trying to get its legal foreign workers out of a detention camp. The six foreign workers, all with legal travel and work documents, were whisked out of their quarters in a resort in Cherating in the wee hours of the morning on Dec 28 last year when RELA members “literally broke into their chalet and ordered them out.” (Star,

* Five factories near here [Klang] alleged that at 1.30am on Saturday, a team of 30 to 40 RELA members (half not in uniforms) turned up to look for foreign workers, assaulted some and allegedly stole cash and valuables during the raid. The companies, who lodged police reports, said that all the workers had legal work permits. The workers of Latitude Tree Furniture Sdn Bhd claimed that RELA members had beaten them with canes and iron rods, leaving welts on their bodies. Two Bangladeshi workers sustained head injuries and were given outpatient treatment. The companies were not happy with the method used to search the premises and also said that “Detaining the workers is not a proper thing to do as it only disrupts operations of all our factories,”. They also said “…that such raids put fear in our workers and furthermore our workers claimed to have lost hand phones and cash after the raids.” (Star, Firms hit out at RELA raids)

* Residents of about 10 households in Taman Anggerik, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, complained that RELA personnel crashed into their homes after breaking door locks and smashing gates, and told them that they [RELA] were looking for illegal workers. The residents said the RELA personnel acted like gangsters and showed them no respect. When they asked the RELA personnel to explain why they crashed into their homes, they were told “we are the law.” Cash totaling RM3,756 in a drawer was subsequently found missing. (Star, RELA men break locks to enter houses)

* 22 workers of an IT company were beaten and made to do a 50m “duck-walk” at Section 30 in Shah Alam, RELA director-general Datuk Mahadi Arshad subsequently claimed that it was not a RELA operation, while stating that only 3 out of the 10 involved were RELA members. (Star, ‘Duck-walk’ incident not a RELA operation)

TIME TO DISBAND RELA OR GIVE THEM MORE APPROPRIATE DUTIES

In light of what we know has been happening when the volunteer RELA force, with powers exceeding normal powers that our police even have, have been let loosed in the general community, it is time now to review the usage of RELA and also the powers that have been bestowed on them. There have been too many abuses and complaints which have got into the media which includes assault (and also deaths), property damage, trespass, invasion of privacy and even theft – and it has involved not just the undocumented migrants, but also documented migrants and even Malaysian citizens. Enough is enough.

The RELA must be rounded-up and rested, and the professional police force and other professional enforcement forces must take over the role of policing Malaysia.

In fact, that Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) Regulations 1966 [P.U. 33/1966] must be repealed. If need be, a new law must be enacted for RELA – one that will re-define their role and duties focusing more possibly towards providing protection to Malaysians and trying to overcome the increasing incidences of snatch thiefs crimes and corruption in the country. RELA should maybe focus their attention to fighting corruption involving the police, other public officers, town councilors and elected representatives.

There is no situation now in Malaysia that can justify us still being under Emergency. It is time for the present government and the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to revoke all existing proclamations of Emergency, and at the same time cause the repeal of all remaining legislations that have been enacted during periods of Emergency – whereby one such Act that has to be repealed is the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979.

Charles Hector

22 January 2007, Petaling Jaya


[i] Star, 445 illegals nabbed by Rela”

Monday, January 22, 2007

Suspect found dead in police lock-up (Star)




Suspect found dead in police lock-up

SEREMBAN: A part-time lorry driver, who was being remanded to help in investigations into a robbery, died in the police district headquarters lock-up here yesterday.

District police chief Asst Comm Hasanuddin Hasan said that the 46-year-old man's body had been sent to the Tuanku Jaafar Hospital for a post-mortem.

“An investigation is being conducted, including looking at the CCTV (closed circuit television) recordings,” he said.

It is learnt that the suspect and two other men were detained in a restaurant at Jalan Tun H.S. Lee in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Family members of the deceased and MIC official Shivarraaj Chandran met ACP Hasanuddin over the death yesterday.

The suspect's brother said that he received a telephone call from the police yesterday morning informing him of the death.

“He was fine when he was detained. When I asked the policeman what had happened, he said that my brother took a shower about 3am and then went to sleep.

“They found him dead at about 5am,” he said.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Rela and Malaysia's invisible war (ALIRAN)








Rela and Malaysia's invisible war



Wednesday, 24 January 2007 (ALIRAN 2006:9)
relaThe volunteer corps' crackdown on undocumented foreigners is not a war on terror; it is a war on defenceless migrants, observes Romany.

Like George W Bush’s ‘war on terror’ waged by the United States, an unseen, little-publicised ‘war on undocumented immigrants’ is being waged in Malaysia. This war, waged under cover of darkness, is hidden from public view and much information about it lands in the dead-news boxes of the editors of mainstream newspapers.

What exactly does the public know about these ongoing crackdowns on the migrant and refugee communities in our country? Who are these refugees and migrant workers? It is too easy to believe in our home grown xenophobic views of foreign people we actually know nothing about, given the kind of information the mainstream media dish out. Do we know or care about the reasons for their presence? We fail to ask the relevant and pertinent question – why are they here?

Home Affairs Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad exhibited this indifference to the little understood plight of these people, in his call to undocumented immigrants to “return home the way they came and not come back”; just before the Deepa-Raya festivities and prior to next year’s “major nationwide crackdown” (The Star, 14 Oct 2006).

The Minister’s said, “I am sure if they know how to enter the country they will definitely know the way out.” In making such a dismissive statement, the Minister did not seem to realise the apparent extent of his ignorance concerning the root causes of mass migration to this country, nor was he admitting his ignorance.

The Malaysian government criminalises undocumented immigrants without justification apart from legally categorising them as “illegal immigrants” because they lack legally recognised documentation to define their immigration status. According to the Minister, the Immigration authorities have a biometric self-identification system, which identifies “illegal immigrants” whose thumbprints are taken when they are arrested. It seems that they are not given any second chance even if they return again with legally valid documentation after being deported the first time. Is this just?

Malaysians often grumble about the long wait and the high fees paid - apart from having to meet other requirements like having guarantors or sponsors to ensure they meet particular financial requirements - before getting a visa to study or to stay longer than what a tourist visa allows in a foreign country. Obtaining work permits for employment in foreign countries is also plagued with much bureaucracy, long waits and costs incurred in the preparation of documents for official processing and approval of the host country’s government.

What if the tables were reversed? What if the economic situation in Malaysia was so bad that about 50-70 per cent of us were almost permanently unemployed and if there was political instability in the country and a majority of us lived below subsistence level - what would we do? Could we afford the high fees in sterling pounds, Australian dollars, US dollars or New Zealand dollars to pay foreign embassy immigration departments to get a visa to migrate? Could we give any guarantees of our financial security having no such sponsors or guarantors willing to put up the money to enable approval of our visa application? What if we were in a desperate situation without any means of livelihood and were forced to join the long immigration queue, waiting for months or years? Many of us would have no choice but to seek greener pastures but we would find no way out. We would be in the same boat as these “boat people”.

Not only do we remain unmoved by such difficulties experienced by others but we also seem to be encouraged by our limited and blinkered views of the world around us. We sneer at the political upheaval and turmoil in neighbouring Asean countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Burma but fail to understand why there is such political instability. Violent repression of people seeking basic human rights in these countries is of no concern to us. These victims, fleeing from political repression and poverty to our shores in the hope of finding temporary safety and perhaps a better life, are treated like criminals and subjected to further ill-treatment and violation of their basic human rights.

Hunted, hounded, harassed and detained

While most Malaysians are sleeping peacefully in the wee hours of the morning, it is a time of terror for the migrants. It does not matter if they are documented or undocumented migrants. These are the dark hours of fear and terror of raids conducted by Rela (the People’s Volunteer Corps). Reports of these night raids read like horror stories, about human beings brutalised and humiliated, robbed, dragged out of their beds, forced into trucks that take them away to certain detention centres, of which the general public know very little about. Is this something fabricated to sensationalise the predicament faced by this marginalized community? No, this is reality.

In their memorandum to Suhakam, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) provided details of raids carried out by Rela earlier this year.

At midnight on 11 February 2006, Rela carried out a raid on foreign workers in the Selayang open market. “According to eye-witnesses, those migrant workers caught were beaten up by the Rela personnel and treated like cattle.” Citing a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report, the memo continued: “...five died while fleeing the raid. Five bodies were found in a small lake near the open market in Selayang Baru.” Further, “Kuala Lumpur Hospital confirmed that four bodies had been taken from the lake in Selayang while another body...was said to be buried quickly.”

It is strange that after such a serious incident involving loss of life, the Immigration authorities and the government remained silent. The mainstream media were hushed, as if ignorant of what happened, except for theSun. A few days after the event, this daily published a small article on a report written by Ong Ju Lin, who had researched the case of one of the deceased foreign workers whose body had been dredged out of the lake. It was found that this particular individual was also a refugee. No inquiry by the government into the circumstances of this raid was made nor was any public statement on it forthcoming.

The siege on migrants by Rela has been going on. A day after the Selayang market raid, another raid took place in Shah Alam, the casualties of this raid were legitimate technicians and contract workers in a factory. They were “slapped, kicked and punched” and humiliated by Rela personnel without reason.

On 28 February, 61 Indian nationals, cheated and left in the lurch, penniless, by an unscrupulous employment agent, and reduced to sitting and waiting for assistance outside their embassy for a number of days, were also assaulted by Rela. Some of them were badly injured in the attack; but were not been given medical treatment. They were detained, unjustifiably.

Another raid on 13 May in Selayang market and Seri Kembangan at around 2.45 am, involving around 1,000 Rela personnel unaccompanied by police or immigration officers, was carried out in an “indecent and brutal manner”, according to Suaram.

In July, Rela conducted a raid on a refugee settlement in Putrajaya. The Achenese refugees were rudely awakened at 3.00 am and herded into lorries by Rela personnel. They were handcuffed with zip-ties and taken a distance to a partly constructed building in Sungai Merab. They were searched and nine of them detained because they did not have UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) cards on them. At 6.30 am, those not detained were sent back to the settlement to find Rela personnel carting away all their belongings after setting their houses on fire. They were left with nothing but “the clothes on their backs”. What was the reason for this inhumanity? None has been given by Rela or the government.

Raids have been more intensified this month (October) and will probably accelerate towards the end of the year into 2007. It was reported on 5 October that 2,000 residents in Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur were “ordered out of their homes” at 3.00 am by Rela (See accompanying story). Amongst them were Chin, Burmese and Karen migrants, who have been detained at the Lenggeng detention centre. They allegedly did not have UNHCR papers, which implies the possibility of their being refugees. There were also detainees of other nationalities: Nepalese, Bangladeshis and Indonesians.

Three more raids are known to have been carried out so far, two in Selangor and one in Penang. All invariably with violence, destruction of property and commission of theft, discovered after the raids by Rela. Pregnant women and children including babies are not spared in the raids and ill-treatment, lack of proper medical attention or degrading conditions in detention centres common features.


Rela, govt-backed vigilantes

On 5 August 2006, The Star reported that Rela was to undergo a “rebranding exercise”. Home Affairs Minister Mohd. Radzi Ahmad said this was necessary as “many people were still in the dark about the movement’s role.” At this ceremony, the Minister conferred the Selangor Menteri Besar and State Assembly Speaker with the rank of honorary colonel and 53 Selangor state assembly members with the rank of lieutenant-colonel of Rela.

This voluntary force was set up by the government on 11 January 1972 under the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1964. According to Home Affairs Ministry information, Rela’s establishment was based on the philosophy that the “responsibility of defending the country is in the hands of its own citizens with all citizens playing their respective roles.” Its mission: “To mobilise a voluntary force to assist the security agencies in the maintenance of peace and security in the country.” Its objective: “To help maintain security in the country and the well-being of its people.”

Given that Rela was established by virtue of the government’s emergency powers, the question arises as to why Rela is activated now. Is Malaysia in a state of emergency?

The growing militarisation of our country is increasingly noticeable. Malaysia seems to be turning into a police state. The last time Malaysia was deemed to be under an alleged state of emergency was in 1987 when Operation Lalang was launched by the then premier, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. During Operation Lalang, key NGO activists, members of religious groups and opposition party leaders were detained. None of these advocated armed insurrection in the country. Is Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi following in his predecessor’s footsteps by activating Rela, who are permitted to bear arms against unarmed migrants and civilians unable to defend themselves? What security threat as such does Malaysia face from economic migrants or refugees?

It is interesting to note that Khir Toyo, the Menteri Besar of Selangor, in his speech at the same event reported on 5 August said, “Rela would be able to function better if its members knew the law and the limits of their jurisdiction.” These words reveal the way in which Rela operates, disregarding the rule of law which should apply to every armed force and enforcement unit in the country as a deterrence against abuse of power and licence to use force, including the licence to kill.

Even more disturbing was Rela chief Khairi Mohd. Alwee’s statement in The Malay Mail on 19 October. Replying to complaints by residents of Taman Anggerik, Selangor that Rela members had broken their door locks and gates to gain entry to search their houses for undocumented immigrants at 5 am on 14 October, he said they had acted according to procedure.

He added, “Rela officers were authorised to enter and search premises without warrants and arrest and handcuff suspects.” Further, he confirmed, “ We are also authorised to carry firearms but we don’t flaunt it to avoid chaos.”

On 14 October, raids under Ops Tegas were carried out in other residential areas besides Taman Anggerik. These were Taman Sungai Sering, Bandar Alam Jaya, Taman Emas, Taman Orkid Phase 2, Taman Permai Jaya, Taman Pinggiran Delima and Bukit Raya.

The net of arbitrary search, arrest, detention and ensuing violence and invasion of privacy is becoming wider, more prevalent and indiscriminate.

Rela has become the government’s pet enforcement arm, being provided insurance cover, weapons, uniforms, status and a commission of RM80 per undocumented migrant (the bounty on the head of every alleged undocumented migrant they capture). In contrast, the government appears to be distancing itself from conventional enforcement units like the police by refusing to permit them a salary increase to cope with rising living costs, thus aggravating corruption within the force. Rela members apparently outnumber the police as well as the armed forces, numbering over 340,000 in contrast to less than 200,000 law enforcement and armed forces personnel put together, nationwide.

The peril within

Due to the shortage of labour within the country and the demand for low-wage labour, the government, in agreement with other Asean governments, maintains policies encouraging mobility of labour within Asean. Yet, Malaysia remains ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with the problems of mass migration. As usual, there has been no foresight, planning or structured approach to problems arising, and no realisation of the advantages of having readily available human resources to spur the economic development and progress of the country.

Instead, our government resorts to heavy-handed tactics and militarisation of the country. This is further worsened by the resulting human rights violations of migrants and citizens. The curtailment of freedom of information and expression, corruption, detention without trial, torture and other abuses in police lockups and immigration detention centres, the denial of prompt and proper medical treatment and more - the list is a long one.

Using Rela as a broom, with uncontrolled and unlimited powers, to sweep problems under the carpet in this inappropriate way only endangers Malaysia itself. Rela has also forsaken its objective to maintain security in the country and to ensure the well-being of its people. This is not a war on terror; it is a war on defenceless migrants and citizens of our country.

Friday, January 19, 2007

ASEAN’s EMPTY Declaration On The Protection And Promotion Of The Rights Of Migrant Workers ?

ASEAN’s EMPTY Declaration On The Protection And Promotion Of The Rights Of Migrant Workers ?

The Heads of State and Government of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), attending the 12th ASEAN Summit on 13 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines came out with an ASEAN Declaration On The Protection And Promotion Of The Rights Of Migrant Workers.

Reading the title only, it all sounds very good for the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers but a deeper consideration of the said Declaration itself reveals that it does very little for the protection and promotion of rights as everything declared is to be subject to the laws, regulations, and policies of the respective ASEAN member Countries.

In the preamble, it explicitly states “RECOGNIZING further the sovereignty of states in determining their own migration policy relating to migrant workers, including determining entry into their territory and under which conditions migrant workers may remain”.

By the usage of the words “subject to the laws, regulations, and policies of respective Countries”, which is repeated several times in the document, the Declaration basically allows that status quo be maintained as it is now in a particular country. Any advancement and protection when it comes, and if it comes, with regard to rights of migrants will depend on the particular member country and the ASEAN Declaration really does nothing about determining what or when or even whether anything will change for the better.

Laws and Regulations are written documents and as such it is clear whereas “policy” is a vague creature. What is the policy of Malaysia with regard to migrant rights? No one can at any time for sure say what it is. Some say that that it is what the Prime Minister, relevant Minister or Director General of Immigration states in their speeches and statements made – but this can and do change all the time, and one will find it near impossible to try to claim rights based on such ‘policies’. It may have been reported in the print media – but then one can always turn around and say that the media got it wrong and it was not what was meant. We need to get our governments to lay down written policies (that are accessible to the public) for us to be really clear on what a government’s policy on a subject matter really is. In Thailand, the Cabinet made Resolutions and this made policy clear but this is not so in Malaysia, and even if there was such ‘Cabinet Resolutions” – it has been kept away from the public.

ASEAN Migrants only – not other migrants?

A close reading of the Declaration will reveal that they are only talking about migrants from ASEAN sending countries – and specifically those that are documented or those that become undocumented later by no fault of theirs.

In the case of Malaysia, this Declaration would not even cover the about 170,000 Nepali migrants, being the second largest nationality group of migrants workers, or those from countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other non-ASEAN countries.

Undocumented Migrants generally are also not covered and the only group of undocumented workers covered is made clear by the usage of the words “[those that] have subsequently become undocumented”, and with regard to families of migrants, it only addresses “family members already residing with them” – not new members of the family of migrants that may come to be in the future of that said receiving country.

As such the millions of undocumented migrants, some of whom who are really refugees, be it from Burma, Aceh , Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines, are not just not covered with regard to rights in this Declaration.

The extension of access of consular functions and diplomatic assistance of member ASEAN countries when an ASEAN migrant is arrested or committed to prison or custody or detained in any other manner, under the laws and regulations of the receiving state seem to be a good thing especially when in that receiving country there is no embassy and/or consulate of the country from where the affected ASEAN migrant originates.

Undocumented Workers

As mentioned earlier, the Declaration does not talk about rights of the about 2 to 5 million undocumented migrants in our country. Officially, the number of documented migrants in Malaysia is about 1.8 million, but interestingly a recent AFP report in October 2006 reiterated yet again that Malaysia’s 10.5 million strong labour force is made up of 2.6 million foreign workers.

Undocumented Migrant Workers is the most victimized of the lot, but sadly the Declaration clearly states that it is not concerned with the documentation of these group of workers when it stated: “Nothing in the present Declaration shall be interpreted as implying the regularization of the situation of migrant workers who are undocumented”

In some ASEAN countries like Thailand, migrant workers from Burma enter, find employment and then register themselves with the relevant government bodies. Likewise, Malaysian migrant workers in Singapore also get the job first and are then registered by their employers as workers.

An ordinary Malaysian worker gets employed, and then only does his employer informs/registers the said worker with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), for Social Security (SOCSO). The income tax department is also informed by the Employer. A similar system, where the obligations are placed on the employer (rather than the worker) would also work for migrant workers and that will solve the problem of documentation, and will result in much more cost saving for the receiving country.

In fact, in South East Asia we should be striving for an ASEAN community of peoples, an ASEAN community of workers – and we should be trying to do away with all these sending and receiving agents and government pre-employment documentation procedures. The ASEAN worker should be allowed to enter any ASEAN nation freely, but maybe on a restricted entry permit of 2 to 4 weeks, being the time for him to secure a job, and if he fails to do so, then he may be required to leave generally – but this should not be the case for those who are refugees.

In Thailand, I believe, if a worker is not satisfied with his employer or his working conditions, he can leave and be allowed to stay in the country for a defined time during which he should find new employment. It is a good practice that Malaysia should also seriously consider.

ASEAN – consensus not majority decision making

The biggest problem with the ASEAN is that decisions are made by consensus and not by majority vote and this is a fact that cripples and impedes ASEAN from moving forward in the field of promotion and protection of rights. For example, if the majority of the ASEAN member nations are not happy with what is happening in Burma – and want to make a statement of protest about Burma, ASEAN cannot do so because Burma (a member of ASEAN) objects. That’s why there may be gross human rights violations committed by some ASEAN member country, and the ASEAN makes no statement or comment. Similarly the fact that some members of the ASEAN are not members of the World Trade Organization prevents the ASEAN from going into the WTO meetings and negotiating as a block for the good of the ASEAN people.

I believe that it is this problem that has brought about this very weak Declaration that has an impressive title and nothing more. It does not even set minimum standards or guarantee basic rights of workers. Maybe, the soon to be ASEAN Charter may be able to set some standards and require strict compliance by all ASEAN member nations within a stipulated time frame. We shall have to wait and see.

Is there a need for the Secretary-General of ASEAN’s Report now?

As it is, there really seems to be no sense for this ASEAN Declaration to have the “Secretary-General of ASEAN to submit annually a report on the progress of the implementation of the Declaration to the Summit through the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting”. What is he going to report, save that each of the ASEAN member states have complied what is required of them in accordance with the requirement of their respective countries laws and regulations and policies. There were really no specific requirements that had to be complied by ASEAN member nations within any stipulated time frame.

ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers

To be fair, there is an indication that an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers is to be developed but alas no time frame was set, and even if such an instrument is developed it must have in place a monitoring system, a complaints procedure and an adjudicating body with penalizing powers that should be accessible to everyone, including the migrant workers and their families and not just the ASEAN member states. We already have UN and ILO conventions dealing with the rights of workers, migrants or otherwise; and also migrant workers and their families that could very easily be adopted in toto or used as a basis for this upcoming ASEAN instrument.

For the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers, we cannot just be dealing with just the documented but must also the “undocumented” migrant. For refugees from member ASEAN countries now in other ASEAN nations, something more may be required – especially since most refugees are seeking asylum and protection from the wrath and possible persecution of their own country of origin.

The instrument must also advocate the equality of persons and equal protection of the law in all ASEAN countries of all persons and all workers from ASEAN member nations and even other countries.

One group of workers that are presently left out in most employment laws of most nations are the domestic workers and this new ASEAN instrument must provide for clear rights for this group of too-long-neglected workers. In Malaysia today, it is reported that there are about 320,000 domestic workers and as such this is no more an insignificant or small group of workers anymore.

ASEAN’s concern about the Protection And Promotion Of The Rights Of Migrant Workers must be applauded but the Declaration that emerged on 13 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines was a far outcry from what one would have expected from a group of nations that describe themselves as a “caring and sharing Community”. As a first step, it may be alright but lots more is expected and needed from ASEAN.

Charles Hector

18th January 2007

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Saturday, January 13, 2007

ASEAN DECLARATION ON THE PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS

ASEAN DECLARATION ON THE PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF
THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS


We, the Heads of State and Government of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (hereinafter referred to as ASEAN), attending the 12th ASEAN Summit on 13 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines:

RECALLING the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II adopted at the 9th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia, which stipulated the establishment of an ASEAN Community resting on three pillars: an ASEAN Security Community, an ASEAN Economic Community and an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community;

RECALLING also the Universal Declaration on Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly Resolution 217(A)(III) of 10 December 1948, as well as other appropriate international instruments which all the ASEAN member countries have acceded to, in order to safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

RECALLING further the Vientiane Action Programme adopted at the 10th ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Lao PDR, which provides for, inter alia, the promotion of human rights and obligations to realize an open, dynamic and resilient ASEAN Community;

CONFIRMING our shared responsibility to realize a common vision for a secure and prosperous ASEAN Community by improving the quality of life of its people and strengthening its cultural identity towards a people-centered ASEAN through, among others, measures on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers;

RECOGNIZING the contributions of migrant workers to the society and economy of both receiving states and sending states of ASEAN;

RECOGNIZING further the sovereignty of states in determining their own migration policy relating to migrant workers, including determining entry into their territory and under which conditions migrant workers may remain;

ACKNOWLEDGING the legitimate concerns of the sending and receiving states over migrant workers, as well as the need to adopt appropriate and comprehensive migration policies on migrant workers;

ACKNOWLEDGING also the need to address cases of abuse and violence against migrant workers whenever such cases occur;

REITERATING that ASEAN should make further progress as a cohesive and caring society committed to enhancing the quality of life and well being of its people, especially those in the vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors;



HEREBY DECLARE AS FOLLOWS:

GENERAL PRINCIPLES


1. Both the sending state and receiving state shall strengthen the political, economic and social pillars of the ASEAN Community by promoting the full potential and dignity of migrant workers in a climate of freedom, equity, and stability in accordance with the laws, regulations, and policies of respective ASEAN Member Countries;

2. The receiving states and the sending states shall, for humanitarian reasons, closely cooperate to resolve the cases of migrant workers who, through no fault of their own, have subsequently become undocumented;

3. The receiving states and the sending states shall take into account the fundamental rights and dignity of migrant workers and family members already residing with them without undermining the application by the receiving states of their laws, regulations, and their policies.

4. Nothing in the present Declaration shall be interpreted as implying the regularization of the situation of migrant workers who are undocumented;


OBLIGATIONS OF RECEIVING STATES

Pursuant to the prevailing laws, regulations and policies of the respective receiving states, the receiving state will:

5. Intensify efforts to protect the fundamental human rights, promote the welfare and uphold human dignity of migrant workers;

6. Work towards the achievement of harmony and tolerance between receiving states and migrant workers;

7. Facilitate access to resources and remedies through information, training and education, access to justice, and social welfare services as appropriate and in accordance with the legislation of the receiving state, provided that they fulfill the requirements under applicable laws, regulations and policies of the said state, bilateral agreements and multilateral treaties;

8. Promote fair and appropriate employment protection, payment of wages, and adequate access to decent working and living conditions for migrant workers;

9. Provide migrant workers, who may be victims of discrimination, abuse, exploitation, violence, with adequate access to the legal and judicial system of the receiving states;

10. Facilitate the exercise of consular functions to consular or diplomatic authorities of states of origin when a migrant worker is arrested or committed to prison or custody or detained in any other manner, under the laws and regulations of the receiving state and in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations;


OBLIGATIONS OF SENDING STATES

Pursuant to the prevailing laws, regulations and policies of the respective sending states, the sending state will:

11. Enhance measures related to the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers;

12. Ensure access to employment and livelihood opportunities for their citizens as sustainable alternatives to migration of workers;

13. Set up policies and procedures to facilitate aspects of migration of workers, including recruitment, preparation for deployment overseas and protection of the migrant workers when abroad as well as repatriation and reintegration to the countries of origin;

14. Establish and promote legal practices to regulate recruitment of migrant workers and adopt mechanisms to eliminate recruitment malpractices through legal and valid contracts, regulation and accreditation of recruitment agencies and employers, and blacklisting of negligent/unlawful agencies;


COMMITMENTS BY ASEAN

For purposes of protecting and promoting the rights of migrant workers, Member Countries of ASEAN, in accordance with national laws, regulations and policies, will:

15. Promote decent, humane, productive, dignified and remunerative employment for migrant workers;

16. Establish and implement human resource development programs and reintegration programs for migrant workers in their countries of origin;

17. To take concrete measures to prevent or curb the smuggling and trafficking in persons by among others, introducing stiffer penalties for those who are involved in these activities;

18. Facilitate data-sharing on matters related to migrant workers, for the purpose of enhancing policies and programs concerning migrant workers in both sending and receiving states;

19. Promote capacity building by sharing of information, best practices as well as opportunities and challenges encountered by ASEAN Member Countries in relation to protection and promotion of migrant workers’ rights and welfare;

20. Extend assistance to migrant workers of ASEAN Member Countries who are caught in conflict or crisis situations outside ASEAN in the event of need and based on the capacities and resources of the Embassies and Consular Offices of the relevant ASEAN Member Countries, based on bilateral consultations and arrangements; and

21. Encourage international organizations, ASEAN dialogue partners and other countries to respect the principles and extend support and assistance to the implementation of the measures contained in this Declaration; and,

22. Task the relevant ASEAN bodies to follow up on the Declaration and to develop an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers, consistent with ASEAN’s vision of a caring and sharing Community, and direct the Secretary-General of ASEAN to submit annually a report on the progress of the implementation of the Declaration to the Summit through the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.


Signed on this 13th day of January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Firm dismayed by detention of workers (Star)




Firm dismayed by detention of workers

KUANTAN: A landscape company spent six harrowing days trying to get its legal foreign workers out of a detention camp allegedly because of a Rela member’s bad mood.

The six foreign workers, all with legal travel and work documents, were whisked out of their quarters in a resort in Cherating in the wee hours of the morning on Dec 28 last year when Rela members “literally broke into their chalet and ordered them out.”

Such incidents are normally settled at a police station with employers producing the original documents.

Despite getting their workers back from the Ajil detention camp on Jan 2, the employers, brothers Tang Hui Han and Tang Hui Ku, were annoyed over the attitude of a Rela member identified only as Mat Ali.

In relating the incident at Wisma MCA in Jalan Bukit Ubi here, the two brothers said they received an SOS call from one of the workers, whom they had furnished with a cellphone on Dec 28.

Hui Han, 30, said they frantically searched for their workers in Cherating and contacted both the Kuantan district police headquarters and Beserah police station but were told their workers were not held there.

“Luckily, we decided to stop at the Beserah police station where we spotted our workers alighting from a lorry.

“We talked to the Rela members who headed the operations but they were mostly uncooperative.

“We continued to question them and finally one of them gave us the leader’s name and that he was not in a good mood,” he said.

Hui Han said he then approached Mat Ali and produced the passports and working permits for his perusal.

“To my surprise, the man shouted the word bodoh at me and pushed my brother Hui Ku towards his car.

“He then told us to get the workers at the Ajil detention camp.

“He refused to look at the documents as according to him, a police report had been made,” he said.

Perplexed by the situation, Hui Han waited until the Immigration Department office opened and spent the next two days trying to secure the release of the workers.

“The irony of the whole thing is that our workers were placed in Cherating as we had secured a big landscaping contract.

“They had been working there for two months without any problem and even the Immigration Department had been informed of their presence in Cherating,” he added.

He also questioned the purpose of the raid by more than 20 Rela members without the presence of police and Immigration officers.

“Just because he was in bad mood, was it proper for him to detain six workers in the wee hours of the morning?” he asked.

“Furthermore, he refused to acknowledge us as the employer despite having produced proper legal documents to secure their release,” Hui Han said.

The brothers, who run the Rasa Sayang florist and nursery centre in Jalan Teluk Sisek, took the matter to the attention of Kuantan MP Datuk Fu Ah Kiow, who asked Teruntum assemblyman Datuk Ti Lian Ker to resolve the issue.

They lodged a police report over the incident on Dec 30, expressing dissatisfaction over the manner of the Rela officer.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Inform public about Rela men’s role (Star) - Opinion




Inform public about Rela men’s role

I REFER to Datin Nazirah’s letter, “Are Rela personnel trained?” (The Star, Dec 29).

I have been hearing a lot about the abuse of power by Rela personnel recently but was sceptical about the reports until I witnessed an incident myself.

During the recent police operation to nab illegal motorcycle racing on the Butterworth-Kulim xpressway, Rela personnel were stationed at traffic lights around a roundabout in Seberang Jaya.

I stopped at a red light junction and so did another motorcyclist. One Rela member immediately approached him and asked for his documents in the middle of the road!

When the motorcyclist hesitated, he was asked to move to the side and was forced to produce his documents.

Can Rela personnel check our documents in the first place? Must they be wearing uniforms all the time or there are undercover members?

It is about time the Government and the police started educating the public about this.

ANDRE OOI,

Seberang Jaya.