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?
From Mohd Iswandi Kasan Anuar
LOS ANGELES, Oct 15 (Bernama) — Malaysia is appealing to the US Department of Labour to remove the country’s palm oil from the “List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labour”, Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said.
Among the criteria used by the department to assess child or forced labour is the withholding of passports of foreign workers and payment of low wages, he said.
“The government has undertaken an independent study, covering 68 plantations throughout the country, and it showed that incidences of this nature are negligible.
“Thus, it is unfair of the department to list the Malaysian palm oil industry alongside others,” he added.
Uggah said this in his keynote address at the Global Oils and Fats Forum (GOFF) USA 2015, here on Wednesday.
He also said Malaysia had implemented a minimum wage structure since January this year and the government would continue to ensure the welfare of foreign workers in the plantation sector with employers subject to domestic laws and regulations.
“This is one of the criteria in the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification process,” he added.
The newly implemented MSPO is aimed at ensuring the production of palm oil in a sustainable manner.
On the conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations, Uggah is optimistic that the palm oil trade with the US will be further enhanced in the future due to it.
He expressed the hope that American consumers will increase their consumption of palm oil products due to it being nutritious, healthy, competitively priced and responsibly produced.
“The benefits are proven through studies by both independent research institutions abroad and the Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB) in Malaysia.
“The research and development findings by MPOB together with its research partners has gained recognition by the international research fraternity,” Uggah said.
The latest is the articles published by the Nature, the world’s most highly cited inter-disciplinary journal, on the epigenetics traits of oil palm discovered by MPOB’s research team.
“Today, in light of the adverse effects of trans-fatty acids from hydrogenated oils, palm oil is much sought after as the global solution for trans free food formulations.
“We are fulfilling the challenge and inclusion of palm oil as an important ingredient in trans free formulations is already much evident,” Uggah said.
He said the Malaysia palm oil fraternity was ready to pass on such knowledge and expertise to friends in the US, and other end users in the region.
Uggah is leading a two-day palm oil promotion mission to the United States from Oct 14.
His delegation, comprising representatives from his ministry, the MPOB, Malaysian Palm Oil Council and the private sector, is aimed at strengthening palm oil exports to the US, while promoting business linkages between the private sector in Malaysia and the country..
The two-day GOFF event was jointly organised by the MPOC and MPOB.
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