Malaysia’s Efforts To Combat Human Trafficking Recognised

Malaysia has been taken off the US Human Trafficking Watchlist after its position in the watchlist has improved to Tier-2 (pic courtest of Fact Retriever)

Slavery has been around since the beginning of time. Up until the introduction of the English Common Law in the Malay States, those who can no longer afford to pay taxes entered bondage slavery to keep their daily bread. Such was the time when slavery was almost all about labour exploitation.

And then the British brought in workers from Southern China and India to toil the tin mines and rubber plantations respectively.  Other than bringing in opium to keep them happy, Chinese females were also brought in to fulfill their sexual desires.

Today, there are more human slaves in the world than ever before in history. There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking. (Skinner, E. Benjamin. A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. New York, NY: Free Press, 2008).  Nearly 80% of human trafficking is for sex, and 19% is for labor exploitation (http://www.ncdsv.org/images/NCADV_HumanTraffickingFacts.pdf ).

Two years ago we were shocked by reports of Malaysia being used as a base for human traffickers with the discovery of 28 camps and 139 graves of trafficked Rohingyas in Wang Kelian.

A forensic policeman transports body bags with human remains found at the site of human trafficking camps in the jungle close the Thailand border after bringing them to a police camp near Wang Kelian in northern Malaysia May 25, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Since then the government has pulled out all stops in its efforts to eradicate the menace. Najib Razak even made a personal decision to become more involved in combatting human rights violators, especially in the realm of human trafficking. He instituted a government-wide initiative to consolidate efforts. Working with law enforcement, immigration authorities, the manufacturing and agriculture sectors and NGO’s, the Malaysian government planned and executed a comprehensive effort to combat trafficking at the local and regional levels.

The efforts have since paid off.  The latest US State Department’s Trafficking In Person (TIP) report, Malaysia was elevated from a watch list to “Tier 2”, which represents significant efforts to combat human trafficking.  This is as a result of the Prime Minister driving the efforts to improve in several key areas, which the US has today recognised as achieving.

Not all are thankful that the efforts made by the government, notably Klang MP Charles Santiago who calls the US State Department’s TIP report a ‘farce‘ that is ‘driven by political objectives.’

The Farcical MP

Charles Santiago is the same person who in 2015 asked then-US President Barack Obama NOT to elevate Malaysia’s TIP status from Tier 3.  Nothing good should ever come to Malaysia for as long as it is not he nor his comical colleagues that are in power.

Charles Santiago asking Obama in 2015 not to make Malaysia look good to anyone

This MP is from the very same Pakatan coalition that the US Department of Justice’s suit on 1MDB-related individuals and companies are not politically-motivated because it would hit the Barisan Nasional hard, but argue that the US State Department’s TIP report as politically-driven instead because it does no good to the Pakatan’s aimless struggle.

Making stupid calls over nothing

According to the US TIP report, the Malaysian government conducted 106 risk assessments and ultimately granted six victims work visas and 12 special immigration passes for freedom of movement. An additional 28 victims were approved for freedom of movement. Prosecutions were initiated by the Malaysian government against 175 alleged traffickers, up from 38 initiated the previous year. The government convicted 35 traffickers—18 for labour trafficking and 17 for sex trafficking.  There were 1,558 trafficking victims identified in Malaysia last year and 3,411 cases investigated by the Royal Malaysian Police.

The report added that the Malaysian government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. During the reporting period, the Malaysian Attorney-General approved and the Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi enforced implementing regulations for the amendments to the anti-trafficking law.

As for the protection of the trafficking victims, the report says that Malaysian officials provided three NGOs with funds to conduct various programs and activities with trafficking shelter residents. They also increased its funding allocation to the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development to operate government facilities for trafficking victims.

As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development maintained seven facilities specifically to house trafficking victims, and the government allocated RM3.06 million (USD682,270) to open three new trafficking shelters.

With this elevation, Malaysia is now a regional leader in combatting human trafficking.  Najib Razak will be working with regional countries, in particular the ASEAN nations,  that are lagging behind, and will support efforts by Myanmar, Laos and Thailand to solve their trafficking problems.

While we should all be proud of this achievement, we should spare no effort to eradicate this inhumane trade.  However, credit should be given where credit is due, and politicising issues such as this shows how selfish one can be putting his/her agenda above the nation’s.

The Road To Malaysia: Part 1 – The Malaysia Concept

Google map data 2016 of Malaysia
Google map data 2016 of Malaysia
“Najib Abdul Razak has done more for Sarawak than all the previous Prime Ministers, including the one who served for 22 years,” said Sarawak Chief Minister, Adenan Satem to a crowd of about 3,000 people at the State Gawai Dayak Dinner in 2015 (Malaysiakini: 4 June 2015). That was what crossed my mind when thinking about sacrifices on the morning of the first day of Aidil Adha.  Najib Razak broke previous Prime Ministers’ record for being the PM who has visited Sarawak the most and has brought about promising developments in both Sabah and Sarawak including the toll-free Pan Borneo Highway.  What is most important is the capacity building for Bumiputera contractors through the 30 percent participation of Bumiputera contractors in this project.

All this had its beginnings more than 50 years ago when both Sabah and Sarawak were the British Colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak.

Prior to 1948, there was no country called Malaya but a territory of nine sultanates as British Protectorates and three Straits Settlements as Crown Colonies. Only the Crown Colonies were under direct British rule via the Colonial Office (Seademon Says: The Road to Merdeka – British Malaya, 12th September 2011). The British almost succeeded in implementing a Federation albeit through the shortlived Malayan Union, but that was later replaced with the Federation of Malaya on 1st February 1948.

Back then, Malaya was just a place for the Chinese migrants to work for money that would be sent home to China – the country the British had encouraged them to remember as their home during the interwar years.  Tun Ghazali Shafie, then the Deputy Assistant District Officer of Kuala Lipis.  He recalled how, when asked if the Chinese would support the Malays in an endeavour to dislodge all British Advisors from all the states of Malaya, the Justice of Peace for Kuala Lipis Mr Ong Siong Teck replied, “We Chinese had always been independent. Of course, but we must be given a place.”

On the 27th July 1955, the Alliance Party had won all but one seat in the Federal Legislative Council elections, and on Sunday, 31st July 1955, the Tunku handed the British High Commissioner his list of cabinet members (six Malays, three Chinese and two Indians) that would still have to be passed to the Rulers for their formal concurrence. This was when the Federation of Malaya gained self rule, a big step towards independence. At this time, there was a planned hegemony over the mainland including Malaya and Singapore, leaving the islands to Sukarno’s Indonesia (Seademon Says: The Road to Merdeka – Persekutuan Tanah China, 6th September 2011). Communism was rearing its ugly head at Malaya, Singapore and Borneo.

By June 1959, Singapore had its General Elections and Lee Kwan Yew’s People’s Action Party (PAP) was swept into power. The communist group in Singapore, including those in the PAP, had to lie low for the time being as Kuan Yew had promised the British that he would not allow any subversive elements to conduct their activities.  Singapore was keen for a merger with Malaya as that would grant them independence and assure them that the Federal government of Malaya would never allow the communists to exist.

By the end of April 1961, the situation in the South East Asia had changed drastically with the Pathet Lao guerrillas had come quite close to Luang Prabang in northern Laos, with the help of the Soviet Union and China. It was then that Ghazali Shafie pressed the Tunku to hasten the “Malaysia Concept” to create a Federation of Malaya, Singapore and the British North Borneo that included the Sultanate of Brunei.

On the 27th May 1961, the Tunku signalled the birth of the “Malaysia Concept” in a speech in Singapore to the Foreign Correspondents Association (Ghazali Shafie’s Memoir on the Formation of Malaysia, 1998 pg.26):

“…sooner or later Malaya should have an understanding Ong Siong Teck Britain and the peoples of Singapore, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak. It is premature for me to say now how this closer understanding can be brought about, but it is inevitable that we should look ahead to this objective and think of a plan whereby these territories can be brought closer together in political and economic cooperation…”

“In North Borneo, there were already signs that Manila was going to make a cartographic claim based on some vague historical background,” wrote Ghazali Shafie, “(and) the Communist Clandestine Organisation (CCO) in Sarawak with assistance from abroad had begun to show its fangs and claws.  Whitehall would never do nything very positive for the people and that colonial territory could not be defended by armed means in the post-World War II period of anti-colonialism.”

The British then planned for a federation for North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak, and some British officials in Brunei even encouraged the locals to hate Malayan expatriates there.  In fact, a Malayan forest officer, Yakin, was assaulted by Bruneians. These Malayans were there at the request of Sultan Sir Omar Ali Saifuddin III to replace British officials in key posts, making the Bruneians think that the Malayans were stealing their jobs and subtly colonising them.

The Yang DiPertuan Agong, the Tunku and Malaysian officials visiting Brunei were subjected to insults and had the word CONGO shouted at them. The truth is no Brunei high officials had ever bothered explaining to the people of Brunei the reason they were there, including Haji Marsal Maun, the Menteri Besar of Brunei.

Before ending the visit, the Tunku made a radio broadcast to the people of Brunei telling them that the presence of Malayan officials in Brunei was at the request of His Highness the Sultan of Brunei and it was never Malaya’s intention to colonise.

While the Yang DiPertuan Agong left Brunei for Kuala Lumpur, the Tunku continued his tour to Sibu on board the KD Mutiara. She was the first ship that was specifically built for the Royal Malayan Navy.  She was also the first RMN vessel to be given the “Kapal DiRaja” title and was the first RMN vessel to be built locally. Their destination was Sarawak, a state that was once a realm of Brunei until 1841 when James Brooke was granted the areas around Kuching and Bau, from Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II, and was later given the title Rajah of the territories. The White Rajahs ruled Sarawak until 1946 when after the war Charles Vyner Brooke, the 4th Rajah of Sarawak ceded his interest in Sarawak to the Colonial Office for a sizeable pension for him and his three daughters.  Unsure of the legality of the cession, the British Government quickly passed a Bill of Annexation, effectively ending the rule by the White Rajahs.

In Sibu the Tunku met with Temenggung Jugah, Aini Dobi (whose brother Rosly Dobi was hanged for the assassination of Governor Duncan George Stewart in 1949), Tuanku Bujang, Abang Louis Barieng and Ahmad Zaidi Adruce.  An Iban in the administrative service in Sibu approached Ghazali Shafie asking the latter to explain more about the “Malaysia Concept.” Ghazali Shafie told the former in general what it was all about and the intentions of uplifting the indigenous people using the same special position of the Malays in the Malayan Federal Constitution.  Bennet agreed that Sarawak could achieve independence through the “Malaysia Concept” but his worry was having the Chinese from Singapore flooding Sarawak.  Ghazali suggested that Sarawak could ask for special powers to control immigration to which Bennet touched Ghazali’s hand saying, “Please help us.

The Ibans were in a dire strait.  Sibu was a town that was very Chinese – 95 percent of its 29,630 inhabitants in 1961 were Chinese.   In comparison, Sibu had 162,676 inhabitants in 2010 and 65 percent were Chinese. A school that the Tunku had visited just outside of Sibu only had a Primary Two class and was not able to find a teacher compared to a Chinese school nearby.  The British were not interested in developing the locals and if the situation was to continue for long, the rate of development for the Iban would be slow compared to the Chinese who had very good schools.  Even Temenggung Jugah was illiterate.  He had a signatured tattoed to his left arm and would put his left arm on a piece of paper so he could copy that to sign documents!

As they left Sibu and the KD Mutiara sailed down the Rajang, it was obvious that Sarawak as a colony would not be left alone by Communist China.  Ships from China sailing the Rajang had revolutionary songs blaring over their tannoy system, even in the town of Binatang (now Bintangor).  It was obvious that the Chinese were using revolutionary propaganda to stir up anti-colonial feelings amongst Sarawak’s masses, and that the “Malaysia Concept” would be the best way to save Sarawak especially from China.

When the KD Mutiara sailed past Binatang, a town of a few brick houses and a dirt road, the people had come out to the jetty shouting for the Tunku to stop. The Tunku requested for Lt Ismail, the CO of KD Mutiara to anchor so he could go ashore.  The Tunku was met by hundreds of people who gave him a very warm welcome, and the Tunku gave them some words of encouragement. Ghazali was met by two young people, an Iban police inspector and a Malay customs officer.  Ghazali noted that both were critical of the colonial administration which had never brought any development to the local people.  These two officers later resigned from their respective jobs and spent full time promoting the “Malaysia Concept.”

In the next part we shall talk about the consutations with North Borneo, Singapore and how the British tried to stall the formation of Malaysia.