Heads must roll, leave no stone unturned, go after insidious agents in migrant workers contract catastrophe

I read with shock and horror the Malaysiakini exposé at the scale of the contract fraud involving unsuspecting migrant workers and even resulting in the deaths of two, on Malaysian soil that is highly suspicious.
Migrant workers have been arriving at our shores up to our doorsteps in the form of domestic helpers, plantation industries, construction workers, in the food and beverage industry, security and in other fields from Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam and other countries – and specific ones like tailoring from Punjab and as goldsmiths from India. Of course, we have the “other” migrant workers in the form of expatriates who are the highly skilled, highly paid and professionals and the other group – mostly unskilled or semi-skilled.
This seems to be one of the core problems in the employment of migrant workers in Malaysia. My personal experiences when I was a varsity student and a young working adult, through my conversations with some security guards in residential areas, most of the Nepalese security guards had degrees in medical sciences, mathematics and even computer science and some even were holding a Masters degree. They were told they would work in the field that they are knowledgable and experts in but were totally blindsided when they were crammed into hazardous living conditions, degrading treatment and tough working hours. They just shrugged, laughed nervously and said there was nothing else to do with no money in their hands when I asked them why they didn’t want to go back. This was 20 over years ago and it is 2023 and we are still having to read such horrors of fraud, false documentations, involvement of many parties – with human lives at stake. Imagine a Malaysia without the workforce of these migrant workers. The truth is we are so dependent on them but many treat them like they owe us the “privilege” of coming to work here. It is not a case of being too proud to work anywhere given that times are hard now, but the deception, lies,
It is assuring to read the statement by Minister of Human Resources V. Sivakumar in Parliament that there will be a probe on the fake contracts, but the matter has been going on for far too long. The report must dig deep, into cartels, syndicates and human trafficking rings and if Malaysiakini can do it, I am confident with more manpower, resources, intelligence and technology that the Government is equipped with to take the necessary actions on these vile human beings who don’t regard what the value of a life is.
But it is not only on the shoulders of the Ministry of Human Resources. The Home Ministry, particularly the Immigration Department, the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) must work together not only to plug the leakages but to send a clear message that Malaysia is not a haven for human trafficking and migrant exploitation. In addition to that, the onus is then on the Attorney Generals Chambers to press charges on these agents and every single person who had been in cahoots with them. Working in silo is not an option here when human lives are at the risk of being extinguished on our soil and especially that we become custodians when they are here.
How many times have we read of exposés by NGOs that have dedicated themselves to highlighting the plight of migrant workers and assisting them? Bullying and abuses of power by those in powerful, privileged positions. For a start, one of the initiatives proposed by the North South Initiative is for an Emergency Shelter to be set up for male migrant workers. This is something the Government can consider doing for safety, welfare and protection of these victims but for documentation purpose as well.
Both the Home Ministry and the Ministry of Human Resources must conduct a thorough investigation – leaving no stones unturned, that heads must roll and to present the report to Parliament and to classify it as an open document for people to be alert of such conduct by agents. Present a flow chart of quota applications with their respective jurisdictions clearly marked out for transparency, integrity and accountability. The report should be presented to the Parliamentary Special Select Committee and the committee must then carry out hearings and field visits with SUHAKAM, the national human rights commission and CSOs that have been the torch bearers for migrant rights and protection. One party cannot work alone to see justice served. Charge perpetrators without fear, favour or prejudice.
Malaysia has much to gain, even financially if we take this matter seriously instead of showing only one side of our image of a food haven, tourist destination and holiday spot with beautiful lush wildlife and scenery but on the other hand we become a hub for the exploitation of migrant workers and human trafficking syndicates.
2 known cases of men who died in the exposé cannot be in vain, notably that they were part of the employment industry. We cannot allow these diabolical agents – local and abroad to continue to reign, manipulate, cheat and bully these men and women who have left the comfort of their countries to work in Malaysia.
Kasthuri Patto
DAP Deputy Secretary for International Affairs
DAP Women Vice Chairman

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