Uptight about ‘religious sensitivities’, but apathetic about abuse of workers

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Domestic workers - Photo credit: freemarket.my

Workers’ rights have been abused for decades, and yet it is still “semuanya okay”, laments JD Loverenciear.

Strange. In Malaysia almost anything can be regarded as upsetting “religious sensitivities” or seen as “racial injustices”.

Public protests of sorts will be quick to follow and then immediate redress including fast-tracking decision-making that cuts across the political perimeters all the way to the top.

But when it comes to the decades of human rights abuses especially that of workers’ rights violations, we cannot say the same.

For decades, we have relied on cheap foreign labour to build a ‘progressive’ Malaysia. But despite benefiting and profiteering from cheap easily exploited foreign workers, we do not seem to have a solid track record of highlighting the deplorable conditions they face.

A case in question is that of the Indonesian domestic worker who died out of despicable abuse bordering on torture. A year after the death of this Indonesian worker, who was forced to sleep outside next to a dog, her mother still continues to cry out for justice. Why do we need 12 months to dispense justice?

Several other cases of abuse probably languish in Malaysia’s courts.

Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran recently declared that Malaysia was ready to “declare war” on human trafficking and forced labour, and that a review of labour laws was underway.

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But as Glorene Das, executive director of migrant rights group Tenaganita said, “a year later there is still no justice.”

“This is not an isolated case. We have a number of cases filed in court for unpaid wages, wrongful dismissal and deductions … but these cases just stay there.”

The question is why?

Indeed, why are Malaysians so indifferent to the unresolved cases that have been brought up? Why are we having this tidak apa attitude towards the scores of reported and probably thousands of unreported cases of abuse, short-changing and cheating of our fellow migrant workers?

Where is our national resolve to shine as an exemplary nation for the protection and nurturing of human rights and dignity of labour?

When it comes to matters of religious sensitivities or racial matters, often imagined or drummed-up, we see all hell break loose instantaneously.

When it comes to our own rights – be it economic or social – we often will not hesitate to highlight them.

When it involves certain distant foreign nation’s political issues, we will march in the streets in thousands and burn effigies all in the name of some politicised brotherhood.

But in our own backyard, workers’ rights have been abused for decades, and yet it is still “semuanya okay”. We are the least bothered by the cases languishing without resolve nor redress.

All we continue to hear despite decades of history is the same tune of assurance, that “a review of labour laws is underway”.

We Malaysians should be ashamed, very ashamed.

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