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Friday, June 29, 2007

Death of a Migrant Worker - Anil Netto (malaysiakini)

Death of a migrant worker
Anil Netto
Jun 29, 07 12:53pm



He died a lonely death in a budget hotel room in downtown George Town earlier this month, far away from home. The death went unreported in the local media and unnoticed by most Malaysians.

But what drove this worker from India in his mid-20s to take his life, assuming there was no foul play? Undertakers told IPS that the death certificate indicated the cause of death as hanging. His body was sent home to India on Jun 10.

It was over a year ago that Vipin V Nair arrived in Malaysia with others from Kerala and Tamil Nadu states in southern India to work in a multinational contract manufacturing services firm in the southern Malaysian state of Johor. The firm employs some 300 workers from India, about 50 of them from Kerala state.

The Kerala workers told IPS that they were promised by recruitment agents in India a basic monthly wage of RM650 (US$190) plus overtime once they arrived in Malaysia. Many of them had to fork out close to Rs 100,000 (US$2,500) each as fees to agents in India acting on behalf of Malaysian agents.

Some of the workers pledged their properties, others borrowed from money lenders or relatives. But when they arrived in Malaysia, they were shocked to find that the basic monthly wage was only RM420 (US$120) plus overtime - an all too common predicament for migrant workers here.

'Vipin was crying'

Complaints among migrant workers include unpaid wages, wages less than what had been promised and job descriptions different from what had been told to the workers in their home countries, said Florida Sandanasamy, programme officer with the migrants' rights group Tenaganita. In one case she highlighted, a group of farmers from Punjab was asked to climb a cable tower to do some repair work.

"We must have a standardised contract and this must be attested to by the respective embassies and high commissions,'' Sandanasamy said. "The Indian high commission, for instance, does not have a list of Indian workers in Malaysia nor do they know how many are working here.''

‘‘Vipin was crying (in his heart) when he first arrived,'' a colleague from Kerala recalled, as it dawned on him and his fellow migrant workers they would have to work at least two years before they could save enough to cover the agents' fees that they had paid in India. By the time the workers pay for their living expenses, send money to their families in India there is little left over. The work was also a lot tougher than what they had been told.

‘‘It is extremely hot,'' another worker told IPS. ‘‘We cannot bear it.'' Vipin was one of the more fortunate ones, working in the air-conditioned machining section. Still, it was all a far cry from what the agents in Chennai, Bangalore and Kerala had promised them. ‘‘They (agents) told different stories to different people,'' said a colleague. ‘‘The workers were told that they would be working in an air-conditioned environment (only certain parts of the plant are air-conditioned), that it was a simple job and easy work. But when they came here, they found themselves trapped,'' he said.

Employers retain their workers' passports, making it very difficult for them to return home before the end of their three-year contract period. Moreover, if the workers want to leave, they are often asked to immediately repay in full the annual foreign workers' levy that their employer pays to the government, which is usually recovered through the monthly wage deductions of around RM120 (US$35).

Workers are also reluctant to return home earlier than scheduled because many of them are heavily indebted at home, having borrowed money to pay the agents' fees. Generally, many of them are afraid to complain as they may be sent back or asked to absorb the costs incurred, without any breakdown being given.

The colleague told IPS that Vipin had wanted to look for another job elsewhere in Malaysia through "a friend" - which is usually not allowed as work permits tie the workers down to a specific employer. In Vipin's case, he had to pay his employer a sum of money to retrieve his passport before he left the firm. A company spokesman said Vipin had wanted to go on a short holiday and the money for the passport was collected as a deposit or guarantee. Whatever the case, ''he was very happy when leaving,'' said the colleague.

Cheated by agents

Vipin left the firm in Johore before the end of May. A few days later he was found dead in the hotel in Penang. What happened in between is unclear.

''Put it this way, I am not surprised,'' Ruth Paul of the Migrant Workers' Support Centre on mainland Penang said of Vipin's hanging. Migrant workers from India who are already in Malaysia are more vulnerable to exploitation and cheating than other nationalities, she told IPS. ''In some cases, they are cheated a second time by local Indian Malaysians who prey on these workers and promise them a better job and better salary only for them to be dumped, duped or exploited,'' said Paul.

‘'When the workers go and complain or bring their plight to their superiors' attention, they are threatened or beaten. Or they run away (and become undocumented or "illegal"). The majority of such workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam who are caught by the authorities are those who have been outsourced and cheated by agents on both sides,'' Paul said.

"The workers are brought in using one company's name - actually, an agent in the guise of a RM2 company - and then they are outsourced,'' said lawyer Latheefa Koya (right), who has taken up cases on behalf of deained migrant workers.

''Under Malaysia's new trafficking laws, workers without proper documents because they have been cheated or deceived by agents - who had come here thinking they are doing something legal but instead end up working in an illegal situation - would be considered victims of trafficking,'' she said.

If they make a police report, the police have to take action under the trafficking law. Meanwhile, a debate is raging over whether Malaysia, which introduced the law in April, deserves to be blacklisted by the United States in its latest annual ‘Trafficking in Persons Report' for not doing enough to fight human trafficking.

Malaysia was placed in Tier 3, among the worst offenders, triggering sharp protests from senior Malaysian government officials. Whatever the real cause of Vipin's death, the workers' dreams of saving up enough from their work in Malaysia have been shattered. And they remain unaware about Malaysia's efforts, or lack of them, in anti-trafficking. ''Many of us just want to return home to India,'' said Vipin's dejected colleague.

- IPS

Monday, June 25, 2007

URGENT APPEAL: 228 BURMESE ASYLUM SEEKERS ARRESTED BY RELA

Urgent appeal:

25 June 2007

228 Burmese Asylum Seekers and Refugees Arrested by RELA

SUARAM is informed that 228 asylum seekers and refugees from Burma were arrestedin an operation by the Malaysian Immigration and RELA (People's Voluntary Corps)raid today (25 June 2007).

About 2.00am, the joint force raided the Chin RefugeeCentre and Chin communities at Jalan Imbi and Jalan San Peng, Kuala Lumpur.Most of the detainees are recognised as refugees by the United Nations HighCommission of Refugees (UNHCR). Among them, 30 people are underaged, 5 pregnantwomen and 10 people who will be sent to United State of America tomorrow forresettlement.

Chin refugee leader, Philemon was also among those arrested.For the time being, the 10 refugees who will be resettled to USA together withPhilemon, have been released after pressure for Human Rights groups.

Remaining117 people had been sent to Lenggeng detention camp while another 100 had beensent to Semenyih detention camp.SUARAM condemns the arrest and calls for the immediate release of all thearrested asylum seekers, especially those UNHCR refugee card holders and women.

As an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Malaysian governmentshould respect the right of refugees in accordance to international human rightslaw.

We urge you to protest the arbitrary arrest by writing to:

Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Security
Prime Minister's Office
MalaysiaPerdana Putra Building,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62502 PUTRAJAYA,Selangor, Malaysia.

Tel : + 60 3 8888 6000
Fax : + 60 3 8888 3444

Datuk Radzi Sheikh Ahmad,
Minister of Home Affairs,
Level 12, Block D1, Parcel D,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62546 PUTRAJAYA.

Tel: +60 3 8886 8000
Fax: +60 3 8889 1613

Tuan HJ. Wahid Bin MD Don,
Director-General of Immigration Department

Dato' Ishak Mohamed,
Enforcement Director of Immigration Department
Director General Office
Immigration Department of Malaysia,
Level 1-7 (Podium) Block 2G-4,
Precint 2,
Federal Government Administration Centre,
62550 Putrajaya,
Tel: +60 3 8880 1000
Fax: +60 3 8880 1200

Encik Zaidon Bin Haji Asmuni,
RELA Director General,
RELA Malaysia Headquarters,
Level 6, Block D2, Parcel D,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62546 Putrajaya.

Tel: +60 3 88863354/ 88863097/ 88886298/ 88886308
Fax: +60 3 88886314/ 88886317/ 88886316/ 88886309

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Probe May 13 riots, police told (Malaysiakini)

Probe May 13 riots, police told

Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Joyce Tagal and Su Hui Hsing (Malaysiakini)

A lawyer has filed a police report calling for an investigation into the May 13, 1969 riots which left more than 100 dead and scores others injured.

N Surendran (photo:right) lodged the report with the Brickfields police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

The report is based on the revelation of new information pertaining to the riots in a book titled May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969 published last month.

Penned by academic Dr Kua Kia Soong, the book, which is based on recently declassified documents from London, claimed that Umno played a major role in the riots.

It also stated that the military and police had practiced racial favouritism during their peacekeeping efforts.

In his report, Surendran urged the police to look into these alleged criminal actions by the police, military and the government, including the late former premier Tun Abdul Razak.

"The parties must be implicated, brought to court and charged, no matter how old they are," he told reporters later.

He said if the police failed to act, he would raised the matter with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) or even obtain a court order.

'We want justice'

Accompanying him was PKR supreme council member S Manikavasagam.

"Since the book is not banned, the contents must be true," said the opposition politician, who also called for a police investigation.

Meanwhile, Surendran said the new information in the book was the reason behind his decision to file the police report.

"For the first time, Malaysians are looking at these documents. Now it is time for the truth to come out,” he said, referring to declassified documents from the London Public Service Records office.

Surendran also urged the government not to be frightened by the documents and to uphold transparency since it is a matter that affects all Malaysian citizens.

"People have been speaking in whispers since 1969. This is important for nation-building. We cannot be an united nation until things like this are brought to light.

“All Malaysians will be happy if they see justice done and the victims of the riots compensated, he continued. What we want is justice, justice for Malaysians,” he said.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Star: Hourly allowance to replace RM80 Rela incentive



Hourly allowance to replace RM80 Rela incentive

PUTRAJAYA: The RM80 that the Government pays for each illegal worker caught by Rela members is being scrapped.

Instead, the Government will pay members of the 500,000-strong volunteer group an hourly allowance for each operation they are involved in.

According to a source, the Government decided to do away with the incentive payment introduced three years ago because it was unfair to Rela members and it had created an unwarranted controversy.

He said the RM80 per illegal worker payment worked out to a paltry sum for members taking part in any operation, although the media has cited this as the main reason or an incentive for Rela members to commit “atrocities” against undocumented workers, just so that they could collect a bigger bounty.

“Do your mathematics. Every operation against illegal workers will involve at least 200 Rela members. The number of undocumented workers detained in each operation varies, but it is usually fewer than 50.

“Thus the final payment, when equally shared among those involved in each operation, works out to be very little.

“As such, the Government feels that it is fairer to pay Rela officers an allowance each time they are involved in an operation, as acknowledgement of their service and contribution,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Rela director-general Datuk Zaidon Asmuni confirmed that the Government has agreed to pay an allowance of RM4 per hour for ordinary Rela members and RM5.80 per hour for officers each time they took part in an operation.

“Once this allowance comes into effect, expected to be soon, the RM80 payment per illegal worker will no longer be an issue,” he told The Star.

Zaidon said that irrespective of the number of hours Rela members were involved in an operation, they could only claim for up to eight hours for each operation.

He also said calls for Rela to be disbanded because of alleged abuse of power in a few isolated cases were unfair.


Star: Hourly allowance to replace RM80 Rela incentive



Hourly allowance to replace RM80 Rela incentive

PUTRAJAYA: The RM80 that the Government pays for each illegal worker caught by Rela members is being scrapped.

Instead, the Government will pay members of the 500,000-strong volunteer group an hourly allowance for each operation they are involved in.

According to a source, the Government decided to do away with the incentive payment introduced three years ago because it was unfair to Rela members and it had created an unwarranted controversy.

He said the RM80 per illegal worker payment worked out to a paltry sum for members taking part in any operation, although the media has cited this as the main reason or an incentive for Rela members to commit “atrocities” against undocumented workers, just so that they could collect a bigger bounty.

“Do your mathematics. Every operation against illegal workers will involve at least 200 Rela members. The number of undocumented workers detained in each operation varies, but it is usually fewer than 50.

“Thus the final payment, when equally shared among those involved in each operation, works out to be very little.

“As such, the Government feels that it is fairer to pay Rela officers an allowance each time they are involved in an operation, as acknowledgement of their service and contribution,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Rela director-general Datuk Zaidon Asmuni confirmed that the Government has agreed to pay an allowance of RM4 per hour for ordinary Rela members and RM5.80 per hour for officers each time they took part in an operation.

“Once this allowance comes into effect, expected to be soon, the RM80 payment per illegal worker will no longer be an issue,” he told The Star.

Zaidon said that irrespective of the number of hours Rela members were involved in an operation, they could only claim for up to eight hours for each operation.

He also said calls for Rela to be disbanded because of alleged abuse of power in a few isolated cases were unfair.


Monday, June 04, 2007

SPECIAL REPORT: We want more power (Malaysiakini)

SPECIAL REPORT: We want more power
Jun 4, 07 11:28am











It''s not enough. If he had his way, People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) director-general Zaidon Asmuni would like to see the body equipped with even wider powers than it now holds.

“We want not only the power to check passports and travel documents. If you ask me, we want more than that. We want the power to investigate and prosecute in court,” he said in an exclusive interview with malaysiakini.

Find out more in this three-part special report.

Part 1
Rela chief: Give us more power
Q&A: We act within the law

Part 2
Suhakam: Rela still needed

Part 3
'They came with batons and lock-cutters'