Linked with our presentatio of Irene Fernandez – Malaysia.
Linked also with our presentation of Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development APWLD – Malaysia.
Friday, March 03 2006 – Enough is enough. There is enough evidence to show that RELA uses pure violence in its given power to arrest people. RELA has done it both to migrant workers and to Malaysians. The government has in fact turned civilians into thugs and gangsters using sheer brutal force on innocent people with impunity.
The Home Ministry protects and condones the form of violence perpetrated by RELA men. The Minister is in a continuous state of denial although numerous cases have been brought to his attention.
The attack on the Indian workers on Tuesday night, February 28, 2006 in front of the Indian High Commission is a clear case of RELA’s violent form of conducting raids and abusing innocent migrant workers.
According to Tenaganita’s investigations, many workers and witnesses told us that the workers were either eating or sitting around quietly at an abandoned building in front of the Indian High Commission. The workers had various labor problems with their employers and many of them had not got their wages. They had no money nor a place to stay. Their only hope of care and support was from the Indian High Commission. Though the workers were there for a number of days, the High Commission failed to give them support in meeting their basic needs. Malaysians with a conscience had helped them with food and drinks. The workers were not harming anyone at all. In fact as Mr. Micheal, a business man said to Malaysiakini: “There was no reason for this brutality that we saw. They were forced to camp at the place. They did not commit any crime. They just want justice”
Chandiran Adaikalam from Tamilnadu, who is now hospitalized at the KL General Hospital has both wrists broken and a knee badly injured. He is suffering from chest pains and is very traumatized by what had happened to him. Chandiran stated that he was eating with four other workers at the top floor of the two storey building in front of the Indian High Commission when two RELA officers suddenly came up and began to hit, beat and kick him. He tried to protect himself especially his head and face from the blows. But the strong blows hit his hands and his wrists broke. He was kicked on the chest. And then he was pushed off the first floor by a RELA officer and fell to the ground. He became unconscious.
The RELA team carted and packed many of the workers into the truck, took all their belongings including crates of water given by well wishers. But he was left him behind unconscious.
Three other workers have also suffered injuries on their legs and hands. We do not know what happened to all the other 61workers who were taken in the truck to the detention camp.
This morning Tenaganita officer visited Chandiran in hospital. Both his hands are on POP. According to the doctor in attendance, Chandiran would need to go for an operation where he needs steel plates to be implanted. The doctor also stated that since he is a foreigner, the operation alone would cost RM10,000 minus his stay in the hospital.
It is a fact that the broken arms are the result of the raid by RELA. Chandiran cannot pay and should not pay for the medical expenses. It is the Home Ministry who must be held responsible and accountable. Thus it is the government that must bear the total costs of the operation and his recovery.
This is not the first case of violence committed by RELA. According to the BBC report of February 16, 2006, five bodies were dragged out from a small lake near the open wholesale market in Selayang following the Immigration raid with RELA officers on Saturday February 11 at 2.00a.m. Eye witnesses had stated that many of the workers ran and those who were caught were beaten immediately. One of the bodies dragged out was Thant Zaw OO, a Burmese Muslim. His two front teeth were missing and there were wounds on his neck and head. However the newly minted Natural Resources and Environment Minister Azmi Khalid denied that the deaths were a consequence of the raid conducted by RELA on February 11 2006.
RELA officers again revealed their violent behavior when they entered the home of IT professionals in Shah Alam on February 12 2006. Suhaimi Zam, one of the persons who was abused, claimed that he and his friends were assaulted and ordered to do the “duck walk”
Since January 2005, Tenaganita and various other organizations, the Malaysian Trade Union Congress and international organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on the government to withdraw RELA from operations or raids conducted by the Immigration. We had warned that the use of the vigilante corp would only bring about the ugly head of racism and violence. The Home Ministry did not heed the calls made by the organizations.
On the other hand, the Home Ministry and the government continue to remain in a state of denial. The question is how many more dead bodies do we want to see; how many more people maimed with hands and legs broken; how many more people need to endure abuse, humiliation and suffer from trauma before we take a bold step to stop the violence.
The Home Ministry, through its continuous denial and in spite of various complaints on the violence and abuse of RELA officers has turned a deaf ear. In fact, according to the Parliamentary secretary of the Home Ministry, Datuk Paduka Abdul Rahman Ibrahim,
RELA officers were empowered to detain illegal migrants. They could head operations to arrest without being accompanied by police men, Immigration or national Registration department officers.
This form of power to an unprofessional body is preposterous. This form of power given to untrained persons has today turned civilians to become abusive and violent with no respect for the rights and dignity of people. RELA officers continue to use the power to act violently as they know they will be protected and not made accountable for their violent behavior. In short the government is accountable. It cannot claim to work towards integrity as it has failed to address the issues of abuse and violence faced by innocent migrant workers during the raids conducted.
We are also concerned over the inaction and attitude of the Indian High Commission to the large number of Indian nationals who have been cheated, abused , no work, denied the terms agreed in a contract signed in India with the agents or not paid their wages. Tenaganita has handled almost 1000 cases of Indian nationals from January 2005 to date.
The Indian High Commission has made no attempt to provide shelter or food or support to its nationals. Tenaganita has met with the High Commissioner to discuss the emerging issues of concern and the need to address the problem. However, the Commission has closed its eyes and turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the workers. It could have protected the workers by placing them within the compound of the High Commission.
We requested the High Commission to control the recruitment of workers by agents who manage the business of travel and tours and to sign, at the least a MOU with the Malaysian government. The workers come with the hope of a decent work. They borrow money to pay the agents and they cannot go back without paying their debts.
Again, the Malaysian government has also failed in its accountability to the recruitment and employment of migrant workers. There is a lack of transparency given to the letters of demand to individuals. Many workers have arrived into the country only to discover there are no jobs for them. How did the Home Ministry approve letters of demand to recruiters and employers who cannot guarantee employment for two years?
We therefore call on SUHAKAM, the Human Rights Commission to:
Immediately conduct an investigation to the RELA raid in front of the Indian High Commission on February 28 2006.
To visit the 61 detained workers at the camp and obtain their release as they have committed no offences.
Conduct an open inquiry on RELA and its violent conduct and behavior during raids in order to ensure fundamental rights and security of persons are upheld and respected.
Investigate into the whole recruitment and employment of migrant workers, in particular the letters of demand issued to recruiters and employers to ensure transparency and a clear comprehensive policy on migrant workers. Dr. Irene Fernandez, Director of TENAGANITA.