Fighting corruption cannot be a piecemeal effort

The arrest of an aide to the Human Resources Minister by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) today is not surprising. What is also not surprising is that everyone knows that the recruitment of migrant workers and the issue of undocumented workers in Malaysia are all due to massive corruption in the Immigration Departments, Private Agencies, and other related entities.

If these holes and leakages are closed, we can resolve the issue of undocumented workers and related problems. Employers prefer cheap migrant labor because it allows them to suppress wages and exploit workers. They also view local workers as demanding and lazy, and use migrant workers to weaken the bargaining power of local workers and unions. Employers often lobby the government to relax regulations on the entry of migrant labor. On the other hand, bureaucrats make it difficult, but employers know various ways to employ someone through the backdoor. Therefore, today’s arrest may not raise eyebrows, but rather just a smile.

Recently, the Home Ministry has been taking the easy way out by attacking the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), blaming them for issuing cards to refugees easily. However, the bigger problem lies in resolving the internal leakages in the Immigration Department and now the Human Resources Ministry. We need commitment and conviction to fight corruption. Anwar Ibrahim’s stance on zero tolerance for corruption will also be ridiculed as long as we have tainted officials in high positions, such as the Deputy Prime Minister. Zahid was previously implicated in receiving bribes from a company to extend the foreign visa system (VLN) contract and has been acquitted of 40 charges, which the Attorney General is appealing.

We cannot fight corruption piecemeal, and the arrest of the Human Resources Minister’s aide is just a small part of the larger issue of mismanagement. It is time for the government to seriously consider the recommendations made before.

Between August and October 2016, PSM and other workers’ rights organizations organized four roundtables on the theme ‘Towards a Comprehensive National Policy on Labour Migration’. Each roundtable focused on a specific aspect of labor migration, covering topics such as recruitment, employment rights, undocumented labor, arrest and detention, social security, health and housing, family, children, and socio-cultural rights. The roundtables were attended by representatives from various government ministries and agencies, embassies, workers’ organizations, migrant workers, civil society, academia, and even employers’ organizations. In July 2017, a paper with recommendations was submitted to the government, titled ‘Towards a Comprehensive National Policy on Labour Migration for Malaysia’. However, most of these suggestions were not taken up.

In 2020, Hishamuddin Yunus, who chaired the Independent Special Committee on Foreign Worker Management during the Pakatan Harapan government’s 22-month term, urged the government to declassify the report on foreign worker management. The report has been classified under the Official Secrets Act, and Hishamuddin stated that the committee members were disappointed with this decision, as no reasons were given.

If the Unity Government can declassify the investigation report on the Double-Six Nomad Crash, which happened 47 years ago in 1976, there is no reason why a more recent and relevant report from 2019 cannot be made public.

S. Arutchelvan
Deputy Chairperson
Parti Sosialis Malaysia

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