Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Deny, Deny. Blame Others!

"Malaysia downgraded in US human trafficking report 
The United States has downgraded Malaysia to the lowest ranking in its annual human trafficking report, to the same category as Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

This was the headline and first paragraph of a report in the Star news online, which is widely known as a pro-government media, that was published on June 21, 2014. I was sad to hear that Malaysia had gotten worse in its work to reduce "this heinous crime" of human trafficking. I immediately asked myself what would the response be from this Malaysian government. My guess was 'Deny, deny. Blame others'. I was not surprised to see the following denials from Malaysian government:
  1. Malaysian government claimed that information used by the Trafficking in Persons Report 2013 was “flawed, inaccurate” and “provided by dubious organisations”.
  2. Malaysia has taken substantive measures and the work by Malaysian government to combat human trafficking was “still a work in progress”. In this light, the US State Department should reconsider its assessment on Malaysia.

Since the denials were serious yet rather typical of this government, I went to the internet to search for more information. I managed to gather the following details for both of the above denials .

Denial 1
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of the New York-based watchdog, Human Rights Watch, said the following:
"The US, UK and Australia and even UN representations had sent over experts to engage with various Malaysian ministries to tackle human trafficking, providing technical assistance and improvement plans. Malaysia failed to respond to assistance from international communities on the persistent problem. Malaysia has only itself to blame for being relegated to the lowest rank in the US’s annual human trafficking report."

"There is no lack of effort from the international community, but frankly Malaysia simply ignored it. It was the sound of one hand clapping. There was no substantive or continuous response to deal with it."

The US's Trafficking in Persons Report has stated the below:

"Some immigration officials were accused of being involved in the smuggling of trafficking victims, yet the Malaysian government did not investigate any such potential individuals or cases."

The statements made by the report and the comments by Robertson show that the report has not been hastily prepared without consultation or working with Malaysian authorities. Malaysian government should not treat international community the way they treat their own citizens. The lesson from MH370 must be learned. They must provide evidence on the “flawed, inaccurate” parts of the report and how was it based on information “provided by dubious organisations”. Please do not just talk, Malaysian government. Go and provide evidence. Unlike Malaysians, international community do not accept empty talks.

Denial 2
On this denial, the parties have stated that Malaysian government has done some talking and perhaps some work too. It was clear that there was little success. It was a half-hearted implementation or mere lips-service.
"While Malaysia has increased its preventative efforts against trafficking via public service announcements, there were fewer identifications of trafficking victims, fewer prosecutions and fewer convictions in 2013 than the previous year."

"While Malaysia had taken up the trappings of combating migrant exploitation via human trafficking with committees, billboards, and brochures; it failed in its implementation."

"Malaysian authorities not only failed to investigate cases brought to them by NGOs, they also failed to recognize victims or indications of trafficking, and instead treated cases as immigration violations"

"Aegile Fernandez, director of Tenaganita, said her group had been handling an increasing number of worker abuse and trafficking cases. “We see very little progress” to fight this, she told AFP. “If you look at the human rights violations, it’s terrible. You cannot deny that. We are really going down and down.”"

One will not be faulted to think that the words from the representative of Malaysian government can not be entirely trusted. We can still recall that there were 2 fake passport holders who aborted the ill-fated MH370 but Malaysian authority failed to check those passports against Interpol database. Interpol database would have revealed the fake passport holders. Malaysian authority brushed aside the necessity to check against Interpol database by saying that it would cause delay to potential 40 million verifications by Malaysia . It was a computerized database verification taking less than a few seconds to as fast as 0.2 seconds without manual work. How cumbersome could it have been to cause delay? The United States used the database 230 million times a year, while the United Kingdom checked 140 million times a year. From the MH370 incident itself, it did not seem that the Malaysian government were serious in tackling human trafficking or illegal immigrants .

Why is Malaysian government official calling human trafficking a "heinous crime" but the government is not serious in resolving the problem? Is someone close to or within the powers that be making lots of money from human trafficking in Malaysia?

Despite more money and time spent on committees, billboards and brochures, this maybe the same old story of some people in this government administrative system benefiting from the publicity against human trafficking, and at the same time, benefiting from human trafficking activities. The word corruption can be smelled all over the air. Human trafficking is not new to Malaysia, the country has been fairly successful in tackling it over the years until 2013.

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