Malaysiakini Opinion

Ghettoising foreign workers should not be a Harapan agenda

S Thayaparan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

“They act like they have a licence to rape. What kind of action will be taken? This will become worse,” he said without providing any proof to back up his allegation.”

- Pertubuhan Rapat Malaysia president A Rajaretinam

COMMENT | Persatuan Rapat Malaysia made this statement two years ago when the then Malaysian government was intending to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers to solve whatever problem we had with cheap labour that year. This was shelved for whatever reason, and Malaysians went on with their blissful lives free from the insidious crimes perpetrated by foreign workers.

Go to certain sections of Kuala Lumpur (a city built by "pendatangs" then and now) and you would be a foreigner in this country. This, of course, is not "their" fault. The anti-pendatang narratives of the former regime and the dodgy post-racial narratives of Pakatan Harapan mean that nobody is interested in tackling our dependence on foreign labour in anything but xenophobic narratives and strategies.

Acclaimed Malaysian author Tash Aw, writing an opinion piece for the New York Times two years ago, rightly pointed out that crimes involving foreign workers – citing government statistics of 2013 – only accounted for one percent of the national average. This does not take into account the crimes committed by people who traffic in cheap labour or the apathy of the general public of the criminal conditions foreign workers are exposed to while helping build this country or provide us with whatever entitlements we think we deserve.

Of course, the crime statistics could have changed in five years and if they had, it would have been good if DAP leader Jagdeep Singh Deo (photo) could have alerted us to the social ills that good, pure Malaysians faced when propping up Penang’s idea of housing these foreign workers in what are essentially ghettos.

Jagdeep claimed that this would ensure there would be no more social problems for the public. “It is a win-win situation. For the public, there will be no more social problems while for the industry there will be adequate rooms for the workers,” he said. Can we hold him to his word that there would no more social problems if these workers were segregated from the general public?

The way how crime statistics are manipulated in this country is that not only are the statistics on crimes committed by foreign workers suspect but also the statistics for crimes committed by the state against foreign workers.

The shakedown money, the illegal granting of citizenship – which is treasonous if you ask me – the unreported rapes, abuse both physical and mental and a host of other crimes that are inflicted upon foreign workers which are in themselves a cottage industry carried out by low to mid-level government bureaucrats and those from the state security apparatus. This needs to be independently...

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