Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
Belal Hossain Biplob
In the wake of a series of controversies, the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur now says Malaysia’s appointing a company would establish its absolute control over labour recruitment from Bangladesh.
“The Malaysian government will select Bangladesh Recruiting Authorities through online system supervised by a [Malaysian] company. The Bangladesh government will not have any control to ensure whether any recruiting agency will get work or not,” reads a December 6 letter from the Bangladesh mission to the expatriates’ welfare ministry in Dhaka.
In the letter, Sayedul Islam, labour counsellor at the high commission, requested the ministry to look into the issues seriously before signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysia on labour recruitment.
It mentions that the Malaysian government’s decision is worrying because the Bangladesh government has to take all liabilities for failures of the selected recruiting agencies though Dhaka will have no role in the hiring process proposed by Kuala Lumpur.
“There is a fear of limiting the job of recruiting manpower only by some agencies after creating a syndicate by the company,” the letter said without mentioning the name of any company.
However, in September, Malaysia informed Bangladesh that it appointed Synerflux Sdn Bhd, which will be the “sole and exclusive entity” to develop, maintain and manage a fully online system known as Bangladeshi Workers Management System (BWMS).
The company will have offices both in Bangladesh and Malaysia, and supervise workers’ registration and eligibility, and delivery of visas.
Synerflux Sdn Bhd, which is owned by former Malaysian home minister Azmi Khalid and Bangladesh-origin Malaysian resident Aminul Islam, came under criticism after the news broke.
Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), which has been opposing the appointment of Synerflux, requested the government not to allow the Malaysian company.
“The appointment of Synerflux is part of a syndicate that will control and monopolise labour recruitment and breed irregularities in the market. So, we requested the government not to allow the company,” Baira President Muhammad Abul Basher told The Daily Star recently.
The issue of labour recruitment in Malaysia is very important as labour relations between the two countries have always been marred with corruption and exploitation.
Following reports of abuse in 2007-08, Kuala Lumpur had halted recruitment in early 2009. In late 2012, it began a state-level recruitment, but since then only about 10,000 have been recruited in plantation sector in Malaysia, home to some 6,00,000 Bangladeshis.
Industry insiders said powerful syndicates made sure that the G2G (government to government) recruitment system failed.
In June last year, Malaysia declared it would go for recruitment through private agencies and allow employments in all sectors — constructions, industries, services and plantations.
Since then, controversial Malaysian companies — Bestinet and Real Time Networking — lobbied Bangladesh and Malaysian governments to get the job of online recruitment of Bangladeshi workers. Both the companies are linked to Malaysian ruling party leaders, according to sources there.
In the face of severe criticism against Real Time Networking that was short-listed earlier, Malaysian government selected Synerflux.
The draft MoU was supposed to be approved by Bangladesh cabinet on November 9, but was deferred following requests by Malaysia. Malaysia then proposed that Synerflux would oversee the recruitment process.
The labour wing of Bangladesh mission recommended ensuring an equal role of the two governments for selecting agencies, setting one-year limit for each agent in labour recruitment, specifying the job demand and forming a joint monitoring team on labour recruitment.
Contacted, Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Nurul Islam said they would discuss the matter with the Malaysian government before signing the MoU.
“We are negotiating with the Malaysian government on some points. But we want to assure that the MoU will be signed making sure that our citizens’ rights are protected,” he told The Daily Star recently.
Asked about the alleged syndicate, the minister said he had no idea about this.
Source: The Daily Star
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