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?
Ho Kit Yen
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) may consider filing for a judicial review of the arrest of 11 picketing individuals last Thursday.
The 11 were charged at the Magistrates Court here, under Section 13 of the Minor Offences Act for making ‘excessive’ noise in a public area.
Its president, Khalid Atan, questioned the police’s action on detaining and charging them.
“I do not understand why they were treated as if they are criminals. They were arrested, put into lock-up (sic) overnight and charged in court the next day.
Khalid said that the workers, from a tobacco company, were allegedly dismissed without a valid reason. This was a contributing factor to them joining the picket line.
“Some of them were forced to sign the voluntary separation scheme (VSS),” he said.
Still, undeterred by the arrests, about 30 people — including the 11 individuals who were charged — continued the picketing today.
Protestors were holding cardboard signs, with slogans and statements such as ‘Stop Union Busting’, ‘Please Respect the Union’ and ‘company not fair (sic)’.
Some drivers, who passed by along Jalan 19/1, honked in support of the crowd.
“Employees are allowed to picket under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967,” said Khalid.
Lawyer Latheefa Koya told FMT that her clients had informed her of their intentions to possibly file for a judicial review, but details had yet to be planned.
Meanwhile MTUC’s secretary-general, Gopal Kishnan, questioned what was meant by ‘excessive’ noise.
“They (the police) did not tell us what level of noise that was deemed ‘excessive’,” he said.
He also emphasised that they picketed in a light industrial area, not a residential one.
Khalid and Gopal said the Union may register complaints with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“We want to highlight the issue to a wider public,” Khalid said.
Gopal said they will not stop picketing.
The hearing for charges against the 11 people will start on May 26. Khalid and Gopal said the Union is fully supporting their members.
Source: Free Malaysia Today
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