Velayutham’s case: M’sia-India bilateral ties at stake, warns academic

BILATERAL ties between countries would get jeopardised if Malaysia continues to downplay cases of migrant workers getting abused while working here.

“It’s damaging our reputation. The perpetrators must be identified and punished according to our labour laws.

“Migrant workers, documented or not, must be protected by proper legislation. Even if they commit immigration violations, it cannot be used as an excuse to not protect them against errant employers.

“Nevertheless, Articles, 2, 5, 6 and 8 of the Federal Constitution grants various protections to the people, citizens and non-citizens alike,” HELP University Faculty of Business, Economic and Accounting/Institute of Crime and Criminology senior lecturer R Panier Selvam told FocusM.

R Panier Selvam

Yesterday, Free Malaysia Today reported an Indian migrant worker’s tragic story of being abused by his employers while working at a banana leaf restaurant in Petaling Jaya.

Known as Velayutham, the man from Tamil Nadu, alleged that his employers withheld his salaries and assaulted him for small mistakes.

He also claimed one of his colleagues had his hands burnt after threatening to report sexual abuse meted out on the restaurant’s workers by the same employer.

Velayutham exposed the matter during an interview with Indian actress Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, on Indian entertainment channel Behindwoods Air.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan, who participated in another interview with Lakshmy and Velayutham, told them that a multi-agency task force had since raided the restaurant and arrested one person for investigation.

The minister said he would charge errant employers in the court of law but reiterated that it would be up to the police to investigate the criminal allegations.

Touching on the matter, Panier Selvam said both Malaysia and India enjoy a long-standing cordial diplomatic relation, which must be maintained at all costs.

Crack the whip, overhaul recruitment process

Despite the atrocity being done by a handful of people, the academic stated that the entire Indian Malaysian community and nation’s reputation have been tarnished.

Velayutham

“This subject had a large audience, and the ramifications on innocent people such as visitors and students must be considered. Malaysians living, working, studying or traveling to India could be targeted,” Panier Selvam opined.

Offering solutions, Panier Selvam urged the Government to consider making it compulsory for restaurant owners to obtain certificates from authorised human rights body such as Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), before running their businesses.

He added that organisations such as Persatuan Pengusaha Restoran Muslim Malaysia (PRESMA) and Persatuan Pengusaha Restoran India, Malaysia(PRIMAS) should hold internal courses regularly to educate their members on workers’ rights.

“Migrant workers must also be informed of their rights and the functions of relevant Government institutions in addressing their rights – on both sides.

“And unscrupulous agents from both countries must be identified and barred from recruitment services for life — in both Malaysia and India,” Panier Selvam stated.

He added: “A multi-agency task group, encompassing Human Resources Ministry, Immigration Department and police should be established to develop a holistic approach to protect the welfare of foreign employees, including undocumented ones.”

On related matter, North South Initiative director Adrian Pereira claimed that the recruitment of migrant workers from India was done in a questionable manner, with many of them having their contracts substituted with terms and conditions which put them under forced labour conditions.

“Why this continues until today is very unfortunate. Even the Indian High Commission has failed terribly to monitor and protect their own people,” he said.

On Velayutham’s case, Pereira said it was not an isolated incident as many migrant workers in Malaysia were suffering in silence.

“Just go to the restaurants and you can see how they are overworked. Try talking to them and you will realise that they are working under forced labour conditions.

“Our fuel for food and socialising at restaurants in Malaysia is usually at expense of these migrant workers. We are too caught up in our chatter to notice their woes,” he remarked.

By : G Vinod – FOCUS MALAYSIA

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