Thursday, April 30, 2009

1 May 2009 : Workers must defend all workers' rights - FWFO is so wrong...

1st May 2009 - Remembering that this is a day for all workers - and the importance for workers to come together in defence of all worker's rights, be they local or migrant workers, be they permanent or short-termed contract workers, ...all workers.

Media Statement – 14/3/ 2009


We, the undersigned organizations, groups and networks, concerned about migrant and worker rights, are appalled at Malaysia’s unjust, discriminatory and unconstitutional anti-worker policy, known as ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ (FWFO) policy when it comes to retrenchment.

A recent Malaysian newspaper report read,“…Employers must retrench their foreign workers ahead of their Malaysian staff as they seek to weather the current economic slowdown, said Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad. She reiterated that employers should adopt the Government’s foreign worker first out (FWFO) principle…”(Star, 28/2/2009 - Retrench foreign workers first, employers told)

Whilst appreciating Malaysia’s concern for its own citizens’ employment, this should never excuse employers from fulfilling their contractual obligations to workers.

It is very wrong for the Malaysian government to compel/encourage employers in Malaysia to retrench their foreign workers first, before the expiration of the agreed duration of employment. Employers should have been fully aware of risks of economic crisis and other business risks, and as such there is no justification whatsoever of their breaching their employment agreements now.

It must also be appreciated that foreign workers do expend lots of monies, incur debts and make great sacrifices when they do decide to come over to Malaysia to work. These workers rely heavily on the representations of the employers and/or their agents especially with regards to wages and the length of period that they will be employed, before deciding to enter into employment agreements and coming over to Malaysia to work.

Employment agreements with migrant workers are usually for a period of 3 to 5 years, and it would be a great injustice if Malaysian employers are now encouraged and permitted to prematurely terminate this employment agreement, and send these foreign workers back to their home country.

Early termination of employment agreements for many a migrant worker means ending up in a far worse condition than when they first entered into employment agreements to come and work in Malaysia. This is a great injustice, and it is inhumane.

If there is going to be early termination of employment agreements which are for a minimum fixed period of employment, then the worker must be paid adequate compensation, at the very least basic wages for the remaining duration of their employment agreement. Usual termination and lay-off benefits paid to local workers will definitely not be just for a foreign migrant worker who is sent back to her country.

We also wish to state that this ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ (FWFO) policy and practice is unconstitutional, as it goes against Article 8 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, whereby Article 8(1) clearly provides that 'All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law...', and there is nothing in the Constitution that permits discrimination against non-citizens, in favour of citizens, with regard to employment. Therefore, section 60N of the Employment Act 1955, which some use as the basis of FWFO practice is ultra vires the Federal Constitution, and as such is invalid.

We believe that it is better that migrant workers who are now in Malaysia who are or will be prematurely terminated be first used to fill up existing manpower needs, rather that bringing in new migrants.

We call on the Malaysian government to immediately stop this unjust, discriminatory and unconstitutional policy and practice, known as ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ (FWFO) principle.

We call on Malaysia to demand that all employers fulfill their contractual agreements with regard to all workers, including foreign workers. We hope that mechanisms are put in place to ensure that employers pay workers adequate and just compensation for any early termination of employment agreement.

Charles Hector

Pranom Somwong

for and on behalf of the following 59 organisations

ALIRAN, Malaysia

All Nepal Women's Association (ANWA) (Nepal)

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)

Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD)

Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong

Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Jakarta

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Building and Wood Workers International, Asia Pacific Region (BWI)

BOMSA Women Migrant's Association of Bangladesh

BRAC Advocacy and Human Rights Unit, Bangladesh

CARAM Cambodia

Citizens' Watch Network Sri Lanka

Civil Rights Committee - Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

(CRC-KLSCAH), Malaysia

Committee for Asian Women (CAW)

Community Development Services (CDS), Colombo, Sri Lanka

Coordination Of Action Research on Aids &Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)

COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Associations), India

Empower Foundation, Thailand

Federation of Trade Unions – Burma (FTUB )

Global Alliance against Traffic in Women (GAATW)

Hope Workers’ Center, Taiwan

IMA Research Foundation Bangladesh

Institute for Migrant Workers (IWORK), Indonesia

International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)

Kav LaOved (Worker's Hotline), Israel

Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) Pakistan

Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia

MADPET (Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture)

MAP Foundation for the Health and Knowledge Of Ethnics Labour, Thailand

Messrs Charles Hector, Malaysia

Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc. (MMCEAI), Philippines

Migrant CARE (Perhimpunan Indonesia untuk Buruh Migran Berdaulat)

Migrant Services Centre – NWC, Sri Lanka

Multi National Women's Organization of Burma ( MNWOB)

Myanmar Refugee Volunteer Group (MRVG)

National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal

Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS)

Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)

Nijera Kori, Bangaladesh

Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program( OKUP), Bangaladesh

Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)

Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS), Malaysia

Pusat Khidmat Pekerja Tanjung (PKPT), Malaysia

Raks Thai Foundation, Thailand

Safe Migration Facilitation Center Advocacy & Human Rights Unit, Bangladesh

Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia

St. John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

The Action Network for Migrant Workers (ACTFORM), Sri Lanka

The Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippines

The Prevention of HIV/AIDS among Migrant Workers in Thailand

Project (PHAMIT)

Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore

United for Foreign Domestic Workers Rights (UFDWRs)

United Indonesians against Overcharging (PILAR-HK), Hong Kong

WARBE Development Foundation, Bangladesh

Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Malaysia

Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal

Workers Hub 4 Change (WH4C)

* Updated with additional signatories (as at 23/3/2009)

If you earn more than 'RM157-00' per month, you are not poor in Malaysia?

They paint a better picture of Malaysia - a prosperous Malaysia where wealth is equitably distributed and there are no more poor and suffering...

One trick of reducing poverty - is to either bring down the Poverty Income Line - or to keep at at unrealistic low. In Semenanjung, a family of 4.6, earning a monthly income of more than RM720-00 is not poor - hence in 2007, Malaysia's poverty rate is only 3.6%.

'..if a PLI of RM1,000 were to be employed, then 8.6 percent of households would be poor instead of the 3.6 percent as claimed by the authorities. If a PLI of RM1,500 is used, then one-fifth of Malaysians are mired in poverty, or a total of 1.2 million households...' - 20%.

Who is poor and what is considered poor? Jayanath Appudurai writing for the Centre for Policy Initiatives quoted government statistics that in 2007, Malaysia’s poverty rate was 3.6 percent – an admirably low figure.

indian crowd malaysia 291107 Jaya writes that this Poverty Line Income [PLI] is determined by the government itself. Malaysia’s PLI stipulates that a household – comprising 4.6 people – in the Peninsula earning more than RM720 a month is not deemed impoverished.

However if a PLI of RM1,000 were to be employed, then 8.6 percent of households would be poor instead of the 3.6 percent as claimed by the authorities. If a PLI of RM1,500 is used, then one-fifth of Malaysians are mired in poverty, or a total of 1.2 million households.

Is the government baseline of RM720 a realistic figure to sustain a family of four-and-a-half persons, Jaya questions?

(To sidetrack slightly, the roughly RM157 – as stated by Malaysia for each individual to minimally survive a month on – is not enough to pay for a Children one-day entry ticket to Paris Disneyland which costs RM182.) - Malaysiakini, 9/4/2009,
Placating Kugan's ghost - Helen Ang
Well, an interesting New Straits Times report highlighted that with an income of RM800, it is very difficult for a family of 5 to survive. Note that these were stories from Penang, where rental is definitely so much low compared to KL and the Klang Valley (Where now, the lowest rental for small flat is already more than RM720.

From Gombak to PJ only by LRT cost you RM2-50 one way - so if you work beside the LRT station, i.e. not taking any other mode of ppublic transport, you need RM100-00 to go to and come baclk from work.

Life's a struggle for these two families
- Adie Suri Zulkefli
Siti Joyah Mohamed (left) finds it hard to support her two school children Mohd Norshahidan and Siti Syamini as she has lost her job as a helper at a foodcourt.
Siti Joyah Mohamed (left) finds it hard to support her two school children Mohd Norshahidan and Siti Syamini as she has lost her job as a helper at a foodcourt.

KEPALA BATAS: Can a family of five survive on RM800 a month?

Zaini Majurat is supporting her three younger daughters’ studies with help from her eldest daughter, who works as a clerk.
Zaini Majurat is supporting her three younger daughters’ studies with help from her eldest daughter, who works as a clerk.

Zaini Majurat, 45, from Kampung Permatang Keriang and her four children have been doing so since January.

The housewife, whose husband Jamil Din died in a traffic accident in 1996, gets RM200 from the Welfare Services Department monthly.

With this and the RM600 a month that her eldest daughter Juriah, 22, earns as a clerk, Zaini has been supporting her two schoolgoing children Juita, 18, and Siti Zubaidah, 16.

She also has to finance her second daughter Juliani, who is studying at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Johor Baru.

Zaini resigned from her job as a production operator three years ago after undergoing heart surgery.

"Juriah has been sacrificing a lot to support her younger siblings," she said.

Their dilapidated village home is, however, looking better after a makeover last year by the Federal Government through the Penang Regional Development Authority (Perda).

The story of Siti Joyah Mohamed, 49, and her five children from Kampung Bakar Kapor is similar to Zaini's.

Siti Joyah's family lives on a monthly allowance of RM250 from the state Pusat Urus Zakat (PUZ). Her third daughter Siti Rohaida, 19, who is studying for a diploma at Kolej Professional Mara in Malacca, gets a RM260 monthly allowance from Mara.

Siti Joyah's problems began began two years ago after her husband, Zahimi Saud, a satay seller, died from hypertension and diabetes at the age of 45.

Two of her older children had married since then.

It is a struggle every day for Siti Joyah to feed and pay the schooling costs of Mohd Norshahidan, 15, and Siti Syamini, 8.

"The money is hardly enough. To survive, Siti Rohaida sometimes has to depend on sympathy from her friends for meals," said a tearful Siti Joyah yesterday.

To further complicate matters, she lost her job as a helper at a foodcourt in Bertam as the employer could no longer afford to pay the staff.

There are also her mounting debts, including her house rent of RM170 which was not paid since October.

The Federal Government recently donated a freezer to Siti Joyah so that she could re-start her late husband's business. But Siti Joyah failed to raise adequate capital to keep the business afloat.

With the help of Penaga assemblyman Datuk Azhar Ibrahim, she filed an application with the state Welfare Services Department for aid but had not heard from them ever since.

"They came two months ago and took down some details, but I have not heard anything from them," she said.- New Straits Times, 1/4/2009,
Life's a struggle for these two families
A more reasonable and logical poverty line income must be fixed, and Malaysia have to acknowlwedge reality as it is, and go about overcoming poverty.

Preoccupied is Malaysia, in the equitable share between the different ethnic communities - that we forget the poor in Malaysia.

It is so bad that Malaysia has the distinction of being the country with the worst income disparity in Southeast Asia.

According to United Nations Human Development Report 2004, the richest 10 percent in Malaysia earn 22 times more than the poorest 10 percent, resulting in the country having one of the worst income disparity in Asia.

The 9th Malaysia Plan report released today said that the country’s Gini coefficient - a measurement for income disparity - has worsened from 0.452 in 1999 to 0.462 in 2004.

“The income share of the bottom 40 percent of households decreased from 14 percent in 1999 to 13.5 percent in 2004 while the top 20 percent of households increased from 50.5 percent to 51.2 percent.” - Malaysiakini, 31/3/2006 - ‘Worrisome’ gap between rich and poor

Malaysia’s top 10 percent of the population is 22.1 times richer than the poorest 10 percent. The country’s income gap is higher than Singapore (17.7 times), the Philippines (16.5), Thailand (13.4), Vietnam (8.4) and Indonesia (7.8). - Malaysiakini, 2/2/2005, M’sia has worst income disparity in SEA, gov’t flayed

What is important for me is that there be equitable distribution of wealth (and benefits) between all human persons in Malaysia..

Do not talk to me about how the wealth is shared between the various ethnic groupings - I want to know whether the wealth of the nation is shared equitably amongst Malaysian families and individuals...

** see also earlier posts, including Using Concepts, Policy and Race/Religion to distract questioning of the inequity an injustices in Malaysia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Open Independent Inquiry into all deaths in custody ...allegation of Bangladeshi 'tortured to death' by detaining authorities.

As a matter of recent Malaysian policy, deaths of persons whilst in the custody of the police brings about an inquiry into the death (inquests) - and similarly, we must also start inquests for all deaths in custody.

Deaths may have been caused by physical torture, misadventure or by sheer negligence on the part of the authority (them public servants or the volunteers in RELA). Not providing adequate healthcare, so as to result in suffering and death is also very wrong - and we remember 1,300 died foreigners died in detention in the past 6 years for this very reason. The Malaysian government is responsible - and, I believe, can be sued.

ABOUT 1,300 illegal foreigners have died during detention in the past six years, Malaysia Nanban quoted Malaysian Human Rights (Suhakam) commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam as saying.

He said many of them died in immigration detention centres, prisons and police lockups because they were denied medical treatment at the right time.

He proposed that a doctor and a medical assistant be appointed in each detention camp and prison which should have the necessary facilities to transfer sick prisoners to hospitals during an emergency.

He said detention camps now have appointed doctors who make regular visits.

He also said that Suhakam had submitted a memorandum to the Government proposing the appointment of a doctor to visit police stations to monitor the health of suspects held in lockups. - Star, 18/12/2008 - 1,300 foreign detainees died due to neglect

Healthcare must be made a priority and a mandatory obligation for all. See earlier post :-SUHAKAM: "...denial of medical attention.. a serious violation of that person’s right to life..."

In the event of a death - there must always be an independent inquiry - an inquest (that is open to the public)

SUHAKAM has the authority to conduct 'spot checks' at detention centres - and it must start doing this more often, and coming out with reports. We just do not beliekve the detaining authority's reasons for deaths of detainees anymore. Independent and open inquiry...please.

Everyone likes to highlight matters - but little is done when it comes to follow-ups.

A reason statement by 15 organisations again highlights deaths in custody....poor detention conditions...

Joint Press Statement

Deaths and Conditions of Detention of Migrants and Refugees

24 April 2009

On 19 April 2009, a Bangladeshi newspaper reported that a Bangladeshi migrant worker, Ikhtiar, died in Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre days after being tortured by the Malaysian police[1]. Three days later, on 22 April 2009, The New Straits Times reported that a 25-year-old Liberian detainee was found dead in the same detention centre.

This year, (then Home Minister) Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar reported to Parliament a total of 2,571 deaths of detainees in prisons, rehabilitation centres and immigration detention centres between 1999 and 2008. He attributed these deaths to illnesses (including HIV/AIDS, septicaemia, tuberculosis, cancer, heart and blood diseases, and asthma) as well as fights and suicides.

We, the undersigned organizations, are deeply concerned by these deaths in detention.

We have highlighted repeatedly the poor conditions of detention in immigration detention centres, which include overcrowding, poor sanitation, insufficient provision of food and water, and inadequate access to necessary medical and health services (including emergency care, treatment for chronic medical conditions, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV, and maternal health services).

We have lodged reports to SUHAKAM about other specific cases of physical abuse, torture and beatings that occur in detention. A year ago, for example, the Bar Council Human Rights Committee, Tenaganita and SUARAM submitted a joint memorandum to SUHAKAM concerning the severe beating of nine detainees by Immigration officers on 20 April 2008 at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre, which prompted riots by fellow detainees. Witnesses testified that a detainee was beaten so badly that he was frothing at the mouth and could not walk.

We remain deeply concerned that particularly vulnerable individuals are not provided adequate protection and care in detention, specifically that:

a) Unaccompanied minors are not separated from adults, which increases significantly their vulnerabilty to abuse;

b) Refugees and stateless persons not yet documented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the point of arrest are not allowed access to UNHCR officials. Due to lack of intervention, a number have been whipped and deported, putting them in danger of refoulement;

c) Detainees in need of medical attention – including pregnant women, the physically and mentally ill, those with chronic medical conditions and/or infectious diseases, as well as trafficked persons – are not provided with adequate, timely care

Malaysia’s Obligations

As a member of the United Nations, the Human Rights Council and ASEAN, Malaysia is responsible for promoting and protecting the human rights of all peoples in its territory, including non-citizens.

Malaysia is prohibited by peremptory norms of international law from:

(i) subjecting an individual to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and

(ii) refouling an individual to a place where s/he would be at risk of such mistreatment or other mistreatment which would qualify the individual as a refugee.


In line with these concerns, we call for SUHAKAM to:

1. Conduct a comprehensive and independent inquiry into all deaths in detention, with full public disclosure of the names, nationalities and causes of death of the detainees by the government.

2. Increase vigilance in fulfilling its mandate to monitor detention conditions, safeguarding, in particular, the rights of women and children in detention in accordance with recommendations by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) in their concluding observations on Malaysia dated 31 May 2006 and 2 February 2007 respectively

We call for the Malaysian Government to:

3. Review immigration policies and practices concerning migrants and refugees to eliminate unnecessary and unjust detention, which contributes to overcrowding and concomitant strain in resources. These include the detention of: documented migrant workers, migrant workers awaiting the outcome of court judgments, asylum seekers and refugees, infants, children, pregnant women, trafficked persons, the physically and mentally ill, and other vulnerable migrants.

4. Comply with recommendations of CRC Committee who urge the government to: “Take urgent measures not to detain children in connection with immigration proceedings, unless it is necessary to protect their best interests and for the shortest time possible, and establish a screening process to ensure that groups with special needs, such as refugees and asylum-seekers, including their children, are rapidly identified…”

5. Note the concern of the CEDAW Committee that “asylum-seekers and refugees, including women, are prosecuted for immigration- related offences and may be indefinitely detained at immigration detention centres or deported” and comply with their recommendation to: “adopt laws and regulations relating to the status of asylum-seekers and refugees in Malaysia, in line with international standards, in order to ensure protection for asylum seekers and refugee women and their children.”

6. Ensure that detention complies with international standards and guidelines, including the:

· 1955 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (UN Economic and Social Council Resolution 2076)

· 1985 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (‘The Beijing Rules’, UN General Assembly Resolution 40/33, of 29 November 1985)

· 1988 Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (UN General Assembly Resolution 43/173, of December 9, 1988)

· 1990 Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (UN General Assembly Resolution 45/111, of 14 December 1990)

· 1990 UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (‘The Havana Rules’, UN General Assembly Resolution 45/113, of 14 December 1990)

7. Ratify international conventions, as recommended by the CEDAW and CRC Committees and the Human Rights Council through the Universal Periodic Review Process held on 11 February 2009, in particular the:

· 1984 International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment

· 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families

· 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol

Endorsed by the following members of the Migration Working Group (MWG) and the Northern Network for Migrants and Refugees (Jaringan Utara Migrasi dan Pelarian, JUMP):

1. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

2. Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi Manusia (HAKAM)

3. Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM)

4. Tenaganita (Women’s Force)

5. Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility, Asia (CARAM Asia)

6. Malaysian Bar Council Human Rights Committee

7. Legal Aid Centre, Kuala Lumpur

8. Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI)

9. Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)

10. Health Equity Initiatives (HEI)

11. Justice, Peace and Solidarity in Mission, The Good Shepherd Sisters

12. Nepali Sangati Penang

13. IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh

14. Penang Office for Human Development (POHD)

15. Women’s Aid Organisation

[1]The Daily Star, ‘Bangladeshi tortured to death in Malaysia’, 19 April 2009.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

US Senate beat Malaysia in acting on the 'corruption and refugee' allegations

There are many refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia today - FACT.

These refugees come mainly from Burma (Myanmar), Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines,...

Refugees normally just run for their life and liberty, and this means that many would have not left their country 'legally' or entered Malaysia "legally". Most will not even have passports.

How many refugees are there? Between 100,000 to 400,000...we really do not know.

Malaysia treats many of these refugees as undocumented migrant workers - but really they are not. They are refugees and asylum seekers, and they should be seen as such.

Remember Malaysia has 2.4 million documented migrant workers [and maybe another 3-5 million undocumented migrants]

The problem today is the UNHCR - who only registers refugees, and let them go. Where would they get money for food and board? Where would they stay? With the Vietnamese refugees in the 70s and 80s, there were UNHCR Refugee Camps where the refugees stay until they are sent to a third country...(or until they were sent back to Vietnam...)

UNHCR controls the branding of persons who are refugees - but alas, they too have their prejudices and politics.

I believe that the Malaysian Government should take on the role of giving recognition as refugees/asylum seekers. In fact, State Governments can also do so - maybe Pakatan Rakyat should start...

Of late, over and above the hardships that these migrants suffer - there was news about Malaysian officials involved in asking for money, and if not they will be 'sold' like slaves...Allegations have been made sometime ago - but alas, Malaysia have been slow to act, to investigate, to act against those errant officers, and put a stop to it.

Shame - shame Malaysia - for some US Senate Committee have looked into it before us - and have released a damning report...

It should have been SUHAKAM, some Parliamentary Select Committee, some Commission of Inquiry in Malaysia ....

Malaysia must now look into this and act against the perpetrators ...(but we may be hoping for too much, for Najib just appointed person/s found guilty for 'corruption' or corrupt practice into the UMNO Supreme Council. So serious was the wrong that the Disciplinary Committee did not stop at a stern warning but barred him from contesting for the No.2 post in UMNO.)

Appointed Supreme Council members:

- Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim (Wanita)

- Datuk Razali Ibrahim (Youth)

- Dr Wan Norashikin Wan Nordin (Puteri)

- Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim

- Datuk Seri Nazri Abd Aziz

- Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom

- Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin

- Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam

- Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz

- Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman

- Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim - Star, 24/4/2009, Umno to hold special assembly to amend constitution

So, is Malaysia capable of doing anything with regard to this issue...

WASHINGTON, Apr 23 (IPS) - The mistreatment of Burmese migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia is the focus of a report released Thursday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

After receiving disturbing reports of trafficking in 2007, committee staff conducted a year-long review of the allegations. The report, "Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand," is based on first person accounts of extortion and trafficking in Malaysia and along the Malaysia-Thailand border. Committee information comes from experiences of Burmese refugees resettled in the United States and other countries.

Many Burmese migrants, escaping extensive human rights abuses perpetrated by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the Burmese military junta, travel to Malaysia to register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for resettlement to a third country, according to the report.

Once in Malaysia, Burmese migrants are often arrested by Malaysian authorities, whether or not they have registered with the UNHCR and have identification papers. Burmese migrants are reportedly taken by Malaysian government personnel from detention facilities to the Malaysia-Thailand border for deportation.

Upon arrival at the Malaysia-Thailand border, human traffickers reportedly take possession of the migrants and issue ransom demands on an individual basis. Migrants state that freedom is possible only once money demands are met. Specific payment procedures are outlined, which reportedly include bank accounts in Kuala Lumpur to which money should be transferred.

It has become commonplace for the authorities to use the vigilante RELA force to periodically arrest and "deport" Rohingyas, a Muslim minority, but since Burma does not recognise them as citizens, the practise is to take them to the Bukit Kayu Hitam area on the Thai-Malaysia border and force them to cross over into Thailand.

Migrants state that those unable to pay are turned over to human peddlers in Thailand, representing a variety of business interests from fishing boats to brothels.

Human rights activists have long charged that immigration, police and other enforcement officials, have been "trading" Rohingyas to human traffickers in Thailand who then pass them on to deep sea fishing trawler operators in the South China Sea.

"People seeking refuge from oppression in Burma are being abused by Malaysian government officials and human traffickers," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The committee has received numerous reports of sexual assaults against Burmese women by human traffickers along the border. One non-profit organisation official states that "Most young women deported to the Thai border are sexually abused, even in front of their husbands, by the syndicates, since no one dares to intervene as they would be shot or stabbed to death in the jungle." Women are generally sold into the sex industry.

"(The Burmese refugees) are treated as a commodity and frequently bought and sold and we have been condemning this practise for a long time," Irene Fernandez, executive director of Tenaganita, a non-profit group that protects migrant workers, told IPS in January. "Our demands have always fallen on deaf ears despite the accumulating evidence of the involvement of uniformed officials in the trade."

The report, the first of three, states that Malaysia does not officially recognise refugees, due in part to concern by the government that official recognition of refugees would encourage more people to enter Malaysia, primarily for economic reasons. Also, Malaysian officials view migrants as a threat to Malaysia’s national security.

"Malaysia does not recognise key international agreements on the protection of refugees and foreign nationals. Nor does it apply to foreign migrants the same rights and legal protections given to Malaysian citizens," Fernandez said.

Foreign labor is an integral building block of Malaysia’s upward economic mobility. While Malaysia’s total workforce is 11.3 million, there are approximately 2.1 million legal foreign workers and an additional one million illegal workers, though no accurate information is available.

While Malaysia accepts the presence of Burmese and others from outside of the country for the purpose of contributing to the work force, persons identified as refugees and asylum seekers on their way to a third country are viewed as threats to national security.

In an interview with The New York Times, RELA’s director-general, Zaidon Asmuni, said, "We have no more Communists at the moment, but we are now facing illegal immigrants. As you know, in Malaysia, illegal immigrants are enemy No. 2."

Many of the approximately 40,000 Burmese refugees who have resettled in the United States since 1995 have come via Malaysia.

In August 2008, committee staff met separately with officials in Malaysia’s immigration department and the prime minister’s office, to convey the committee’s concern regarding the extortion and trafficking allegations. Immigration Director-General Datuk Mahmood Bin Adam and long-time immigration enforcement official Datuk Ishak Haji Mohammed denied the allegations of mistreatment against Burmese migrants at the hands of immigration and other Malaysian officials.

As reported recently in the Malaysia Star, "Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar also denied claims that thousands of illegal foreigners held at detention centres were 'being sold off' to human trafficking syndicates. ‘I take offence with the allegation because neither the Malaysian Government nor its officials make money by selling people.’"

However, according to the report, on Apr. 1, 2009, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan stated that an investigation has been launched.

The flow of refugees from Burma to Thailand, Malaysia and other countries has cost Burma’s neighbours millions of dollars in food and humanitarian assistance. The committee calls on officials of impacted ASEAN countries to measure the financial cost of hosting refugees displaced from Burma, and to request financial compensation from Burma’s military junta for costs incurred in caring for the refugees.

It asks the government of Malaysia to address the trafficking, selling and slavery of Burmese and other migrants within Malaysia and across its border with Thailand. As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Malaysia is urged to consider alternatives to detention for refugees and asylum seekers, especially for women and children.

"Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak should act on this U.S. Senate report to protect the rights of refugees and victims of human trafficking," said HRW’s Pearson.

The report advises the U.S., in coordination with other donor countries, to continue providing funds to facilitate sharing of information on human trafficking among authorities of Thailand and Malaysia; and to provide technical and other assistance to the governments of Malaysia and Thailand so that the trafficking of Burmese and other migrants may be more actively pursued and prosecuted.
- IPS, 23/4/2009, MALAYSIA: Burmese Refugees "Treated Like a Commodity"

Back home, Malaysiakini reported that pressure is again on Najib to do the right thing..

There is mounting pressure for newly-minted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to take action in the wake of a damning United States Senate report on human trafficking in Malaysia.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on Najib “to protect the rights of refugees and victims of human trafficking.”

Meanwhile, veteran parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang urged the government to respond to allegations that Malaysian officials are complicit in the human trafficking of refugees.

“This is not only most damaging to Malaysia’s international image but raises also grave questions about Malaysia’s human rights commitment in Asean,” said Lim.

Two days ago, the US Senate released a report which once again put Malaysia under the spotlight on its long-standing problem of human trafficking.

The report was the result of investigations prompted by allegations of the trafficking of thousands of Burmese refugees in Malaysia who were held in detention centres around the country.

captured detained illegal immigrants 030707They were deported to the Thailand-Malaysia border, where they were extorted for up to RM2,000 each in return for safe journey back to Malaysia.

According to the report, as many as 10 percent of these refugees never made it back to Malaysia because of their inability to pay their ransom and were sold to human peddlers.

The male refugees were mainly sold as slaves into fishing industries, factories, plantations, while the female refugees were either sold as sex or domestic workers. There was no documentation on the fate of children.

‘Most young women deported to the Thai border are sexually abused, even in front of their husbands, by the syndicates, since no one dares to intervene as they would be shot or stabbed to death in the jungle,’’ an NGO worker was quoted by the report.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations which produced the report, titled ‘Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand’, comprised 18 senators led by former Democrat US presidential candidate John Kerry.

Gov’t officials in cohort with traffickers

In addition, the report cited troubling allegations of Malaysian officials - including Immigration Department officials, police and Ikatan Relawan Rakyat (Rela) officials - colluding with human traffickers for personal gain.

“Burmese migrants are reportedly taken by Malaysian government personnel from detention facilities to the Malaysia-Thailand border for deportation. Upon arrival at the Malaysia-Thailand border, human traffickers reportedly take possession of the migrants and issue ransom demands on an individual basis,” said the report.

prisoner immigrants behind bars 220605“Migrants state that freedom is possible only once money demands are met. Specific payment procedures are outlined, which reportedly include bank accounts in Kuala Lumpur to which money should be transferred.

“The committee was informed that on some occasions, the ‘attendance’ list reviewed by traffickers along the border was identical to the attendance list read prior to departure from the Malaysian detention facilities.”

The matter was of interest to the US because the approximately 40,000 Burmese refugees that have resettled in Malaysia since 1995 came mainly from Malaysia.

Currently, Malaysia has not acceded to both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol on Refugee, and does not officially recognise refugees, although the government allows the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) to carry out registration and resettlement of refugees.

The report also criticised Rela for possessing too much power and noted allegations of their aggressive treatment towards refugees, including arresting and detaining refugees regardless of UNHCR documentation.

Under the 2005 Malaysian Securities Regulation, the volunteer corps allows members to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants, enter premises without a search warrant, bear firearms and demand documents.

First-hand accounts of extortion

The report also quoted first-hand accounts of trafficking and extortion.

One victim recounted how he received threats that he would be beaten, shot and killed if he was unable to pay up his ransom.

Another victim described that he was taken to Thailand-Malaysia border twice by Malaysian immigration officials and forced to pay RM3,000 for his release on both occasions.

“When we arrived at the Thai border, it was already dark. The Thai agents were already there when we arrived at the border river bank. The agents took us to Thailand by boat. The city we arrived in was [deleted]. We were there for about a week. The Thai agent gave us very bad meals, they fed us twice a day.

“They asked us to contact our friends and family who live in Kuala Lumpur. My friend sent RM1,500 to Hat Yai from Kuala Lumpur by [deleted] Bank. After they received the money, I was sent back to Kuala Lumpur. After a week, I was arrested again and sent to the Thai border again.’’

One was told that inability to pay ransom would result in him being sold to Thai agents to work in the sea as a fisherman without pay.

Many others noted that they were returned to Malaysia after their friends in Kuala Lumpur paid up their ransom.

Nevertheless, the committee credited the Malaysian government for allowing UNHCR to carry out refugee protection and assistance activities since 1975.

The report also revealed that on April 1, police chief Musa Hassan announced that the police has started investigations on allegations of extortion and human trafficking of Burmese refugees.

Recommendations for Malaysia

In its list of recommendations, the report suggested that relevant governments and organisations request for financial compensation from Burma’s military junta for costs incurred in caring for refugees.

Government, police and anti-corruption officials were also implored to address the trafficking selling and slavery of refugees, assist victims of trafficking within the country.

In addition, they were encouraged to consider alternatives to detention for refugees and asylum seekers, especially women and children.

rela 290507 immigrants being detainedLastly, the report appealed for unhindered access for UNHCR officials to all facilities within the country where refugees are detained so that they may carry out registration work, and for the abolishment of Rela.

As of now, there are approximately 87,000 Burmese refugees in Malaysia who fled Burma because of ethnic and political persecution by the military junta.

Of these, only 57,000 are registered, with the majority being Chins (25,000) and Rohingya Muslims (16,000), and the remainders including ethnic Arakanese, Kachin, Karen, Shan and Mon.

However, despite the release of the scathing report, the authorities have not let up on their effort to round up refugees.

“The Malaysian authorities rounded up and detained some 300 migrants, including small children, during raids in the Imbi neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur late Wednesday night,” lamented advocacy officer Amy Alexander from California-based Chin Human Rights Organization.

Kennedy Lal Ram Lian, coordinator of the Chin Refugee Centre in Kuala Lumpur, said: “No one has been released - not even UNHCR card holders. More than 10 Chin detainees are UNHCR-recognised refugees awaiting resettlement to a third country. If they are deported to the border, they are at risk of being sold to traffickers.”

Government in denial

Meanwhile, opposition parliamentarian Lim has sought a meeting with government leaders to discuss the controversy.

“The Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar will convene a meeting on the (US Senate) report and seek a meeting with Najib and the new foreign minister, Anifah Aman.”

mtuc cawp water tariff pc 171006 charles santiagoHowever, his parliamentary colleague Charles Santiago (right) is pessimistic that action would be taken.

“Instead of acting on these recommendations ... ministers would categorically deny the report, rubbishing it as an attempt to discredit the government,” predicted the Klang MP from DAP.

After all, former home minister Syed Hamid Albar had denied such claims before.

“I take offence with the allegation because neither the Malaysian government nor its officials make money by selling people,” he was quoted to have said.

Santiago said he had repeatedly raised the issue in Parliament.

“They would sing the same rhetoric of having carried out an investigation on the immigration officers and found them to be squeaky clean.”

The MP nevertheless called on new Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to open a new investigation on the matter. - Malaysiakini, 25/4/2009,
Najib told to act on damning trafficking report

Saturday, April 25, 2009

PRM has declared their decision to contest in the Penanti by-elections

Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) may be last of the truly opposition PAS, DAP and PKR can more claim that as they are government in 4 (maybe 5 States).

PRM has declared its intention to contest in the Penanti By-Elections....and maybe they will be make a better opposition to the Pakatan Rakyat government of Penang, compared to the BN. What do you think?

Parti Rakyat Malaysia

21B(F) Jalan SJ 6

Taman Selayang Jaya

68100 Batu Caves


Kenyataan Media: 24-04-09

PRM akan bertanding pilihanraya kecil Penanti

Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) telah memutuskan untuk bertanding dalam pilihan raya kecil Penanti nanti.

Biro Politik Parti Rakyat Malaysia dalam mesyuarat baru-baru ini telah meneliti perkembagan politik tanahair selepas PRU ke-12 dan muktahir, organisasi parti serta calon yang akan dikemukakan dalam PRK Penanti.

PRM berkesimpulan bahawa PRK Penanti adalah satu pilihan raya kecil biasa, penyertaan PRM dalam PRK Penanti kali ini akan memanfaatkan rakyat dan menurut lunas kewujudan PRM sebagai sebuah pertubuhan berdaftar yang ditubuhkan sejak 1955 oleh pejuang-pejuang kemerdekaan iaitu Ahmad Boestamam, Dr. Burhanuddin dan Haji Ishak Mohamad (Pak Sako) di negara ini.

Keputusan Biro Politik PRM ini selaras dengan ketetapan Jawatankuasa Pusat PRM yang dibuat sebaik sahaja pimpinan baru mengambil-alih kepimpinan PRM setelah pucuk pimpinan lama beramai-ramai meninggalkan PRM dan memasuki parti lain.

Ketetapan PRM ialah PRM akan menyertai semua bahagian pilihan raya umum dan mana-mana pilihan raya kecil akan datang.

Yang benar,

(Koh Swe Yong)

Setiausaha Agung

Should the courts be deciding as to who can call God "Allah"?

Well, the court has granted leave - and this means that the courts will now decide who can use the word 'Allah'...

The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur was given leave by the High Court today to quash the Home Ministry's decision prohibiting the use of the word "Allah" in the Herald Catholic Weekly.

endon funeral 201005 murphy pakiamArchbishop Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam was also granted leave to apply for nine declarations, including to declare that the decision of Home Ministry and the government of Malaysia was illegal and ultra vires the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

According to Bernama, his counsel, S Selvarajah, told reporters that Justice Lau Bee Lan granted the leave under Order 53 of the Rules of the High Court in chambers.

Senior federal counsel Suzana Atan, for the ministry and government, did not object to the application.

Lau also fixed May 28 to hear the application for a stay of the Home Ministry's decision.

On Feb 16, this year, Murphy, as publisher of the Herald, filed for a judicial review to quash the decision of the respondents dated Jan 7, 2009 that the applicant's publication permit for the period Jan 1, 2009 until Dec 31, 2009, is subject to the condition that he be prohibited from using the word "Allah" in the Herald.

Seven declarations

The other seven declarations sought are:

1. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the Herald in the exercise of his right that other religions other than Islam may be practised in peace.

herald the catholic weekly online 2412072. That Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution does not empower the respondents to prohibit the applicant from using the word "Allah" in the Herald.

3. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the weekly in the exercise of his right to freedom of speech and expression.

4. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the Herald in the exercise of his freedom of religion which includes the right to manage its own religious affairs.

5. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the Herald in the exercise his right in respect of education of the Catholic congregation in the Christian religion.

6. That the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 does not authorise the respondents to prohibit the applicant from using the word "Allah" in the Herald and

7. That the word "Allah" is not exclusive to the religion of Islam. - Malaysiakini, 24/4/2009, Court grants leave to review word 'Allah' in Herald