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 Myanmar Muddle

When it comes to the Rohingya problem, Malaysia has always been voicing out her concerns regarding the issue.

In September 2012, the Royal Malaysian Navy’s KD Indera Sakti delivered 480 tonnes of aid to the Rohingyas through the port of Sittwe.

The Royal Malaysian Navy’s multi-role support ship KD Indera Sakti

At the peak of the Rohingya refugee crisis last year, only Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to temporarily shelter 7,000 Rohingya refugees. Malaysia also deployed five naval assets to provide assistance to the boat people.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak also joined thousands in a rally at a stadium in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month to show his concerns regarding the Rohingyan plight as they continue to be massacred by anti-Islamic parties in Myanmar while the Myanmarese government turn a blind eye on Rakhine.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman also called for a meeting with his ASEAN counterparts to discuss the problem.

ASEAN ministers meeting on the Rohingya problem

In attendance was Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has denied the rights of the Rohingya.

New York Times report on Aung San Suu Kyii’s refusal to address the Rohingya problem

Malaysia’s stand has won the admiration of many Rohingya in Malaysia and abroad. I met several in Saudi Arabia recently who said Malaysia’s stern voice has provided some relief to the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

One of those whom I met was Shah, a hotel cleaner who has lived in Saudi Arabia for the past 19 years. Although he has never been to Malaysia, he was singing praises as news from home said that the oppression has slowed down after Malaysia voiced out its concerns.

Shah the cleaner from Myanmar who is happy with Malaysia’s stand on the Rohingya issue

It is hoped that Malaysia would be able to get other ASEAN members to find a sustainable long-term solution to the problem and continue to be the voice for the Rohingya. 

Negarasawan

Back in 1998 after Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from UMNO and the rakyat rose against Mahathir, I used to tell friends who were in UMNO that it was wrong to burn your house down just because you quarrel with a sibling.  Instead, you should sit down with that sibling and other family members and work out the differences and find a middle ground.  Last night, Najib Razak who is UMNO’s President made the same call through his Facebook posting asking UMNO members to work differences out amicably. As members of a large family there is bound to be disagreements but this could be solved through discussions as UMNO members are brethren.

This is of utmost importance.  UMNO has gone through many trials and tribulations from the days of Dato Onn Jaafar who left the party to form another back in the 1950s, to the attacks on UMNO by a nonagenarian of Kerala-descent that the party faces now.  It has been the unity of UMNO members that has stopped all attempts to break it apart.  The UMNO members have to realise this.

UMNO is not just being attacked by its trditional enemies and former members.  It is also being threatened by colleagues from component parties for showing ‘support’ to the amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, 1965 sought by PAS President Haji Hadi Awang.  It was last revised in 1988 and since its passing 51 years ago, not a single non-Muslim person has ever been charged in a Syariah court for not fasting during the month of Ramadhan nor has there been any case of a non-Muslim being charged in court for fornication.  So why should it be any different now?

Talking about unity, someone caused disunity in ASEAN 19 years ago when he fought to have Myanmar admitted as a member. Yes, Myanmar became a member of ASEAN despite concerns regarding the military junta’s treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi as well as the oppression of minorities.

Mahathir said:  “I fought hard for Myanmar to be admitted into ASEAN.”  Yes, it was his idea.  According to his now-bosom-buddy Lim Kit Siang in June 2005, it is Mahathir who must bear the greatest responsibility for the ASEAN admission of Myanmar in the 1997 ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur despite strong regional and international reservations and opposition. It was Mahathir who was a staunch supporter of ASEAN’s founding principle of non-interference, a principle that has allowed the group to develop economic ties without being pulled into each other’s domestic problems, that has caused this policy to be severely tested when Myanmar entered into ASEAN in July 1997.

In June of last year he tried to push the buck back to the present government.  For those who said that Najib Razak has done nothing to help the Rohingyas, due to the ASEAN principle of non-interference, the most the government could do is to get Myanmar to be committed in dialogues with other neighbours on this issue. Despite that, this present government shipped 480 tonnes of food, neccessities to the Rohingyas in Myanmar in September 2012 through the port of Sittwe, Myanmar. And last year, Najib Razak announced that Malaysia will give assistance to the Rohingya boat people. The Royal Malaysian Navy led the effort to give assistance to the boat people.

Since Mahathir is jobless, can’t afford to hire cooks, can’t afford to buy flight tickets that he needed a private jet to take him everywhere, and his Vision 2020 to have his son as the Prime Minister is now in tatters, Mahathir should now organise a series of demonstrations in Yangon.  I am pretty certain his DAP friends would be willing to finance his trip there.

Let us see if he would take up this challenge and prove that he is still a negarawan and not the negarasawan that he has turned into.

Pathetic. Go sit in a mosque and repent!
Pathetic. Go sit in a mosque and repent!

Land of Vile

Malaysian authorities dig up mass graves along the Malaysian-Thai border, and the cartoon published by Nation News of Thailand (pic by Siakapkeli.my)
Malaysian authorities dig up mass graves along the Malaysian-Thai border near Wang Kelian, and the cartoon published by Nation News of Thailand (pic by Siakapkeli.my)

The Nation recently ran a cartoon that made fun of Malaysia in light of the recent discoveries of human-trafficking camps with mass graves of Rohingyas.  The cartoon was picked up by an AFP correspondent based in Malaysia, Parameswaran Ponnudurai., and was subsequently highlighted by The Malaysian Chronicle. It is all well and good for Thailand that the remains of the Rohingyas as well as the camps are mostly found on this side of the border, not that they do not have any, mind you. The Thais should also remember that while Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to take in 7,000 of these refugees, Thais have adamantly refused to take in any.

So, shame on Thailand for closing an eye on the problems across its western border?  Wait for it.  There is another thing they ought to be ashamed of. In interviews carried by BERNAMA, the luckier Rohingyas spoke about the guards who tortured, raped and killed the rest.

Read from the link and see who they were and if there anything sinister about the Land of Smiles!

TLDM Teruskan Operasi Mencari dan Menyelamat Pelarian Rohingya

Setelah menerima arahan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Tentera Laut DiRaja Malaysia mengerahkan lima buah aset permukaannya untuk memberi bantuan kepada pelarian Rohingya serta melakukan operasi mencari dan menyelamat selebih pelarian Rohingya yang masih berada di laut dan belum ditemui.  Di dalam satu sidang akhbar yang telah diadakan petang tadi, Panglima Tentera Laut Laksamana Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar TLDM menegaskan bahawa kelima-lima aset tersebut yang terdiri dari KD Mahawangsa, KD Selangor, KD Laksamana Muhammad Amin KD Ledang dan KD Jerai telah diarahkan untuk memberi bantuan sewajarnya seperti yang telah diarahkan oleh Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN).

KD Jerai, kapal penyapu ranjau TLDM yang turut serta dalam misi bantuan kemanusiaan untuk pelarian Rohingya - gambar TLDM
KD Jerai, kapal penyapu ranjau TLDM yang turut serta dalam misi bantuan kemanusiaan untuk pelarian Rohingya – gambar TLDM
Krisis pelarian Rohingya telah menyaksikan kematian beratus jika bukan beribu pelarian akibat pelayaran yang mengambil masa lebih tiga minggu untuk tiba di perairan Thailand, Malaysia dan Indonesia.  Hanya Malaysia dan Indonesia sahaja yang telah memberi persetujuan untuk memberi perlindungan sementara kepada 7,000 orang pelarian, sementara Thailand akan menghentikan penundaan semula ke laut bot-bot yang membawa para pelarian tersebut.  Menteri Luar, Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman menegaskan para pelarian tersebut perlu dihantar pulang dan diberi penempatan tetap dalam masa setahun dengan bantuan kewangan daripada masyarakat antarabangsa.

Bagi TLDM dan kerajaan Malaysia, ini bukanlah julung kali ianya terlibat dalam misi bantuan kemanusiaan untuk kaum Rohingya.  Pada bulan September 2012, kerajaan telah menggunakan kapal KD Indera Sakti untuk menghantar sebanyak 480 tan barangan keperluan seperti makanan, ubat-ubatan serta keperluan harian lain melalui pelabuhan Sittwe, Myanmar.

The Plight Of The Rohingyas: A Test Of Moral Conscience

As thousands of Rohingyas turn up in the waters off Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, thousands more die in the high seas never to find the refuge they sought. Myanmar meanwhile continues to turn a blind eye on the issue. These boat people are no longer in Myanmar waters, therefore they are no longer Myanmar’s problem. Hundreds have been slaughtered by unscrupulous human traffickers in “camps” in areas in Southern Thailand. Even the highly-celebrated champion of democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, has admitted that she is a politician and “not a moral organisation or anything like that.” Disgusting is the only way I could describe her reaction, for a lack of better word.

I do not envy the position of the Malaysian government. Myanmar is part of the ASEAN brethren. Thousands of Rohingyas have already sought refuge in Malaysia in the past, and Malaysia has always been the country preferred by boat people to land at.  After the fall of Saigon in April 1975, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees appeared on the shores of Malaysia.  Those in their 50s might remember the plight of thousands of refugees on board the MV Hai Hong and how Bidong island, off Terengganu’s idyllic village of Merang, housed thousands of Vietnamese. Very few countries agreed to accept some of these refugees. Thousands more were stranded in Sungai Besi, forgotten if not by all, and became a problem for Malaysia up until the early 1990s.

Finally, Prime Minister Najib Razak came out with a statement of concern on his blog. And I wondered how would Malaysia start with helping these refugees, I found this on an acquaintance’s Twitter post:

  
May God bless Malaysia and continue to guide the leadership to continue to make the correct decisions.

Meanwhile, all other ASEAN nations should take a hardline stand on Myanmar and compel its government to put a stop to the persecution of the Rohingyas. This is to be a test on ASEAN’s members’ moral conscience, jointly and severally.