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Malaysia’s shame to be placed amongst the 16 countries in the world as the worst offenders of human trafficking
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Malaysia has been shamed by the United States Department annual 'Trafficking in Persons Report' amongst the 16 countries in the world as the worst offenders of human trafficking. The other countries in this list of shame are Algeria, Guinea, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice submitted the annual "Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report" to Congress where:- (a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The US may impose sanctions on October 1 2007 on countries in this list of shame, such as the withholding of non-humanitarian and non-trade-related foreign assistance. Malaysia is not expected to be affected as Malaysia does not receive or require such assistance. Further such sanctions are not effective as it does not extends to humanitarian, trade-related and certain development-related assistance.
What is painful is the damage to our dignity and honour for Malaysia to be described as a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation as well as forced labour. According to the report, Malaysia was demoted for its failure to show satisfactory progress in combating human trafficking. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development was singled out in the report for not doing enough to help the victims of human trafficking.
Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil should explain her Ministry’s failures in 6 critical areas
Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil should explain her Ministry’s failures which the report cited as in 6 critical areas of:- 1. punishing human trafficking acts, 2. providing adequate shelters and social services to victims, 3. protecting migrant workers from involuntary servitude, 4. failing to establish a government-run shelter for foreign trafficking victims despite promises made in December 2004 and August 2006. 5. lack of procedures for the identification of victims have also caused some trafficking victims to be treated as illegal immigrants; and 6. not prosecuting traffickers who were arrested and detained under preventive laws.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar should not be in denial syndrome by adopting a siege mentality and blindly criticising the findings of this US State Department’s annual report. Human trafficking is not about nationality or ethnic background of the victims but principally about common humanity. Conscience dictates the abolition of such servitude of labour and sex as morally reprehensible and unacceptable in any civilized nation.
Syed Hamid should acknowledge the existing weaknesses and take steps to prove the report’s conclusions were wrong in saying that, "The Malaysian government needed to demonstrate stronger political will to tackle Malaysia’s significant forced labour and sex trafficking problems". Only by removing Malaysia’s name from the list of shame that Malaysia is neither a transit nor source of labour and sexual exploitation next year, can Malaysians have our honour and dignity restored.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP