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Imposing fares for migrants taking ‘free’ PJ city buses is blatant discrimination

The roads travelled for work: Women migrant workers in Singapore and Malaysia - UN WOMEN GALLERY/FLICKR

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the Petaling Jaya City Council and the Selangor government’s decision that migrants taking the PJ City Bus will be imposed a RM0.90 fee starting from 15 January 2023.

It is appalling that the city council has decided to impose this abhorrent policy on what is supposed to be a free public transport service. Jay Jay Denis, the special officer to the Selangor menteri besar, has responded by assuring that the fare is “not meant to be discriminatory”, assuring [the people] that that the RM0.90 fare is not for profit, as it does not even cover the cost of the service.

However, this begs the question on why such discriminatory fare would need to be imposed in the first place on the poorest users such as migrant workers.

There is no good reason why they should not be able to benefit from the free bus service offered. The imposition of this fare upon migrants is irrational and arbitrary. Hence, this act is tantamount to bigotry, plain and simple.

This is also implicit in the remarks by the Selangor menteri besar’s aide in which he stressed that the priority for the PJ City Bus is for Malaysians, as if the migrants are mooching off Malaysian taxpayers – a narrative often used to justify discriminatory policies against migrants.

It is an undeniable fact that migrant workers are the backbone of our country, being an essential part of many of our critical industries. Not only are they integral to the development of our country, but they also contribute to our taxes and economy.

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In fact, according to Irene Xavier of Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, the Budget 2022 estimated that RM1.7bn would be collected from migrant workers that year.

A significant portion of the migrant community do jobs that Malaysian will not take up, for less pay and under harsh conditions to the point they often fall victim to labour exploitation.

The fare discrimination is emblematic of a larger problem of discrimination suffered by this vulnerable group at the hands of the authorities.

Xenophobia must not be a part of any government policy, both at the state and federal level, especially by the Pakatan Harapan-led Selangor government, a coalition whose political platform promises reform.

LFL thus demands that the PH-led Selangor government retract the planned discriminatory fare for migrants and avoid further discrimination of migrant workers through policies, acts or specific decisions. – LFL

Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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