Tenaganita executive director Irene Fernandez today turned the tables by saying that it is the government who is "immoral" for threatening human rights defenders like her with the law.
Responding to Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who called her an "immoral" activist for allegedly smearing the country's reputation, she said the government was in fact distracting from the issue of migrant workers rights.
"Intimidating and refusing to accept criticism in a good manner is immoral. If anyone, it is (Muhyiddin) and the government who are immoral," she said.
She added that instead of going after her, the authorities should "do their job" in investigating the numerous police reports lodged by Tenaganita and migrant workers over alleged abuse.
Last week, Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department chief Ku Chin Wah said Fernandez may be probed for sedition for her statements to the international media on migrant workers in Malaysia.
According to Fernandez, Tenaganita had filed more than 15 police reports this year, and knows of at least 10 others lodged by the migrants on their own initiative in the Klang Valley.
She said these cases involve the withholding of travel documents by employers, physical and sexual abuse.
“The speediness is not there to investigate (compared with the allegation against me).
“This raises a lot of questions on the primary role of the police force to ensure that law and order is maintained and rights are protected,” she said.
Fernandez ( left ) added that the matters she raised in the media have been highlighted by Tenaganita multiple times in “high level consultations” with the government for the past two decades, including during a meeting last month.
However, instead of acting on this feedback, the government has chosen to “go after whistleblowers”.
She said this is a “shameful” thing for a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council to do.
“This is what it means by ‘ memalukan negara ’ (embarrassing the nation). Malaysia made (its) way up to be given a seat on the Human Rights Council, where you should uphold the rights of people.
“But you sit there and silence those who voice out the rights of others. This is the contradiction of this government,” she said.
She added that while it is “outrageous” to suggest that there are no good employers of migrant workers in Malaysia, the fate of these workers should not be left to the goodwill of individual employers.
“Good governance demands a more sustainable approach whereby the state puts in place laws, regulations, policies and mechanisms to ensure the rights of all persons, including migrants, are protected equally and without discrimination,” she said.
Fernandez said that Tenaganita would not be cowed by the intimidation and is still willing to work with all parties to ensure safer migration into Malaysia for all workers.
Echoing Fernandez, Anti-Human Trafficking Selangor Council member Abdul Aziz Kamal said he has lodged 30 police reports on trafficking of migrant workers this year but to no avail.
“I have been in touch with the disciplinary officer in Bukit Aman who now tells me that the investigating officers for the cases cannot be located,” Aziz said.
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