MP SPEAKS Our government has literally been caught with its pants down with the recent discovery of the death camps, including the latest human trafficking transit camp in Lubuk Sireh yesterday. It has exposed to the world, our government’s gross neglect and total failure in fighting human trafficking and securing our borders for so many years.
So much so that international observers and US senators are asking why President Barack Obama would want to trade with Malaysia when we have such an appalling record on combatting human trafficking.
Malaysia has for the past four years, been put on the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Annual Report (TIP) Tier-2 watch list, and over the last seven years, we have been blacklisted three times at Tier-3, classed as being the worst offenders in human trafficking.
In the latest 2014 TIP report, our government was unsurprisingly criticised for failing to report information on any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
As far back as 2009, the US State Department had already highlighted reports of Malaysian immigration authorities’ involvement in the trafficking of Burmese refugees from immigration detention centres to the Thai-Malaysian border.
In responding to repeated negative coverage of our country’s human-trafficking record, our government in 2008, proudly announced the setting up of a cross ministerial National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Council (now known as the Malaysian Anti-Trafficking Council or Mapo) led by the Home Ministry and later, Malaysia’s five year (2010-2015) action plan to combat human trafficking, which had set out nine strategic goals, one of which is to strengthen law enforcement in our country.
And in 2013, the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) launched an elite tactical division called the Special Task Force on Organised Crime (Stafoc), to investigate organised syndicates committing serious crimes, which included human trafficking.
The question is - how successful have all these initiatives launched by the government, Mapo, the five year action plan and Stafoc proven in fighting human trafficking, particularly, in weeding out and prosecuting local corrupt law enforcement officials working with human trafficking syndicates along our borders.
Unlike the seriousness shown by our Thai counterpart in recent weeks on cracking down human trafficking, where more than 50 police officers have been transferred from the border area, and with many other police officers and even an ex-mayor being arrested, our government’s response pales far in comparison.
So far, as reported in our press last week, only two police officers have been arrested in connection with human trafficking. Even then, the details of the two police officers arrested are sketchy, in terms of whether they were arrested before the discovery of the death camps, and if their arrests had any connection with the death camps discovered.
‘Plans to erect fences a publicity stunt’
The deputy home minister’s recent announcement of government plans to erect walls and fences along our border after the discovery of the death camps is also nothing but a publicity stunt to cover up the government’s failure in detecting the death camps sooner - which have operated in the border area for years.
The idea of erecting a border wall had long been mooted. In the Home Ministry Bulletin 1/2014 (Jan-March), Ab Rahim Ismail, the then-secretary of the Police and Border Security Division, and acting head of the Anti Smuggling Unit (UPP) had raised serious concerns on the unsystematic and ill managed Malaysia - Thailand border, which have caused our country to lose billions of ringgit every year to tax evasion, smuggling and the entry of illegal immigrants.
Ab Rahim, in his report, had urged the government to urgently increase spending on building modern fences along our borders and to set up a specific enforcement agency like the US Border Patrol to manage our borders in order to prevent overlapping and lack of cooperation between the various government agencies working along our borders.
Sadly, the prime minister’s urging two days ago to take stern action against the masterminds, and not the henchmen, of human trafficking syndicates, blaming foreigners instead, shows his unwillingness to acknowledge and deal with the root causes of our own security and local law enforcement shortcomings.
Notwithstanding this, PKR reiterates its urging that a Royal Commission of Inquiry must be immediately established to investigate the human trafficking death camps and the failure of our government to secure our borders for so many years.
GOOI HSIAO LEUNG is Member of Parliament, Alor Setar and PKR International Bureau chief.