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Migrant workers’ plight: Government must listen to civil society voices more intently

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The government must do more to alleviate the plight of helpless migrant workers who have to put up with low wages, long hours of work and poor living conditions, writes JD Lovrenciear.

If Malaysia is truly serious about achieving the coveted ‘developed nation’ status, the government must listen more intently to the voices of non-governmental organisations.

One such group that has long struggled for rights and justice in the country is Tenaganita.

In a country that thrives on cheap labour – especially from the millions of undocumented workers – meeting global and international standards of integrity, justice and ethics is a non-negotiable criteria to attain developed nation status.

The issue of an undocumented Indonesian domestic worker who had to turn to the courts in her bid to claim five years of unpaid wages epitomises the current national state of human rights.

As pointed out by Tenaganita’s executive director Glorene Dass, many undocumented migrant workers have become victims of fraud, deception, and opaque immigration procedures. Others have been victims of well-connected recruitment agents.

The lengthy period of recourse and the uncertainty in seeking justice constitute a red mark for the nation.

While our fight against corruption like the infamous kleptocracy is the focus of the day, our continuing disregard for the plight of the large numbers of undocumented workers in the country is a dent on the country’s good name.

These helpless migrant workers are being exploited: low wages, long hours of work, poor living conditions and exposure to diseases without easy access to timely healthcare. They also have to endure lengthy yet uncertain court proceedings when seeking redress.

READ MORE:  Cheap, exploited labour cannot build a sustainable nation

If this is not cruelty, then what is it?

What is it going to take for the government of the new Malaysia to listen to the voices of civil society groups like Tenaganita in ensuring we become a model nation for integrity, ethics and justice?

Must human rights continue to languish at the hands of greedy decision-makers?

Do we continue to be at the mercy of profits, business growth and economic power while our fellow human beings are left to suffer exploitative injustices that are becoming synonymous with the embedded culture of corruption in Malaysia?

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