IGP

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migrant workersAliran is appalled with the IGP’s proposal, publicised on 17 February 2007, that all foreign workers be confined to kongsi and have their movements monitored by management to prevent them from committing crimes.

This proposal, expected to be tabled as a bill in Parliament by the Home Affairs Ministry in March, violates Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 13 stipulates freedom of movement of the individual as a basic human right. Basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are generally non-negotiable rights in international law.

The IGP reportedly revealed that only 2 per cent of crimes in the country were committed by foreigners (NST, 17 February 2007), leaving Malaysian nationals responsible for the remaining crimes. For this very small minority of foreign criminals, the IGP proposes to restrict the freedom of the majority of law-abiding foreign workers who are here to make a living, peacefully and honestly.

The NST report used the death of former top police officer Datuk Albert Mah, who was robbed and assaulted by five Indonesians and later succumbed to his injuries, and “rampant” crimes committed by foreign workers to justify this sweeping proposal. It also appears that the authorities have been propelled to take action because of the highly publicised Albert Mah case.

But why are foreign nationals being singled out for drastic measures when only 2 per cent of criminal acts are committed by them?

The Home Affairs Ministry’s enthusiasm for this so-called crime prevention measure, to the extent of making it law, seems to reflect the government’s determination to legalise discrimination, not only on the basis of race, but nationality as well. This is another violation of basic rights in the Federal Constitution, international human rights law and the Charter of the United Nations, that Malaysia, as a member of the United Nations Organistion, is obliged to uphold.

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The measure will also legalise the currently illegal practice of wrongful confinement of employees, which particularly affects domestic workers, whose movements are frequently restricted by their employers. It would worsen their situation and the situation of all migrant workers across the board. If Parliament passes such a draconian law that allows these violations of human rights, the Malaysian government would do well to step down from the UN Human Rights Council.

Malaysia is also a State Party to 28 ILO conventions, amongst which is the Migration of Employment Convention (Revised) 1949 (C97) pertaining to migrant workers. It is unacceptable that the Malaysian government exhibits no serious commitment to its international treaty obligations under the treaty conventions it has chosen to ratify. This is a further embarrassment by our government that Malaysian citizens have to endure while Malaysia keeps its seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

In view of this, Aliran strongly urges the Home Affairs Minister to withdraw this bill. Should he insist on tabling this unjust, inhumane and degrading law in breach of Malaysia’s human rights obligations, Aliran calls on Parliament to reject it.

Aliran supports the stance taken by Human Resources Minister Dr. Fong Chan Onn that all of Malaysia’s labour laws be applied to all workers in the country without discrimination on grounds of nationality, and that any extra law for foreign workers would be superfluous.

Angeline Loh

Executive Committee Member 

27 February 2007

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