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MP SPEAKS | We must win the war on forced labour

MP SPEAKS | Today I rejoice. After four years of urging multiple governments to make the Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management report public, it had finally been declassified.

Thumbs up to the present government!

As the human resources minister in 2018, I initiated a transparent Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management that was headed by former Court of Appeal judge Hishamuddin Yunus. The committee was sanctioned by the cabinet to study the horrible state of our recruitment of foreign workers.

This led to the publishing of a comprehensive report which included 40 recommendations that I presented to the cabinet for deliberation. There was even a special sitting of the cabinet just to discuss the foreign workers' issues.

Thereafter, the cabinet set up a committee headed by the chief secretary to the government to suggest how the recommendations/proposal should be implemented.

Among the core recommendations of the Independent Committee was the establishment of the Human Resources Ministry as the single authority for the management of all foreign workers.

In 2019, the stumbling block was none other than then-home minister Muhyiddin Yassin. The report most definitely was never considered when he then became the prime minister through a coup known as the Sheraton Move.

‘Look into all recommendations’

I reiterate my stand as recommended by the report, the responsibility of formulating policies related to the management of foreign workers should fall solely under the Human Resources Ministry.

I urge that all the report's recommendations be looked into. I suggest a committee be formed by both the Human Resources Ministry and Home Ministry to look at the recommendations and see how they can be implemented.

The report also explained that the Human Resources Ministry was best suited for the role as it already has the responsibility of determining the country's economy’s labour market needs.

It also recommended that a multi-tier levy system be introduced, that the public healthcare system provide equal healthcare fees for foreign workers and even an insurance plan outside of the Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) scheme be provided for migrant workers as part of protecting the physical and mental health of the workers.

To address allegations of forced labour, Malaysia must implement comprehensive reforms in handling foreign workers, prioritising human rights and ethical labour practices.

We must win the war on forced labour.

This can be done by ensuring enhanced and strict enforcement of labour laws, transparent and accountable recruitment mechanisms, regular and thorough inspections of workplaces and living quarters, the fostering of collaboration between the government, private sectors, and civil society organisations, efforts to empower and educate workers for their rights and align our labour practises with international standards.

M KULA SEGARAN is Ipoh Barat MP.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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