PETALING JAYA, Feb 2 — The large scale human trafficking camps uncovered in 2015 along the Thai-Malaysia border were only possible due to “systemic corruption” and weak border control, according to federal lawmaker Steven Sim.
Speaking at “Tragedi Wang Kelian: Nerhaka Ciptaan Rasuah” (Wang Kelian Tragedy: Hell Created By Corruption) at the GerakBudaya book store last night, the Bukit Mertajam MP claimed that a combination of foreign worker visa monopolies, illegal worker amnesty and a lack of transparency in addressing the issue has made the matter even worse over time.
The forum was moderated by MBPJ councillor Lim Yi Wei, and with former Malay Mailjournalist Arulldas Sinappan and Malaysian Consultative Council of Islam Organizations secretary general Zulhanis Zainol present to relate their experiences on the ground.
“No one at the highest levels has been held accountable to date. Of the 37 suspects identified in the initial investigations only four were charged, one of whom was later acquitted.
“Witness testimony including villagers at Wang Kelian and other border communities as well as authorities indicate that this human trafficking was well entrenched and indeed was going on for years before being ‘uncovered’ in 2015,” he said.
Sim also claimed that Malaysia had created a system whereby it was easier and cheaper for migrant workers to be smuggled into the country, work illegally and become “legalized” through amnesty programs.
He questioned why the Home Ministry seemed to be heavily involved with the “importing” of human labour rather than leaving such matters to the Human Resource Ministry.
Sim said the latest media reports over the involvement and cover-up by the authorities could affect Malaysia’s ranking in the Trafficking In Persons report.
He claimed the government had proven itself to be uninterested in combating human trafficking unless it either served its interest in some way or drew condemnation over its inaction.
“Malaysia was at the lowest ranking, Tier 3 for years, before anything was done to improve it. Since then we only see a reaction by the government when our ranking drops.
“When negotiations were being held for the country to join the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, we saw the amendments to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act allowing refugees to work to allow the country to work,” he added.
Sim also reiterated that a comprehensive investigation was needed to “weed out the rot” in the country’s immigration system and to mend its “broken” border control.
“I have called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry before and I am repeating it here. It is well established that graft is heavily present among border personnel. In fact it was reported in June 2015 that 80 per cent border officials were on the take.
“The evidence is overwhelming but there seems to be little to no action on the matter. In fact only Thailand has seemed to have taken comprehensive action against human trafficking by arresting and charging dozens of high ranking officials for their involvement.”
by Jonathan Edward(Malaysia)
February 2, 2018