Thursday, 10 May 2012

Irene Fernandez in trouble with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission:

MACC hauls up Tenaganita chief

Tarani Palani | May 9, 2012  FMT News
The Tenaganita executive director has been asked to explain her 'Malaysia is unsafe for foreign workers' comment in the Jakarta Post.


PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has hauled up Tenaganita’s executive director Irene Fernandez over an interview with the Jakarta Post.
The interview, criticising the Malaysian government for its poor treatment of foreign domestic workers, was featured prominently in all the major local dailies yesterday.
Apparently her comments which was published in the Monday edition of the Jakarta Post had not gone down well with the authorities.

At a press conference here, Fernandez said the MACC contacted her yesterday and requested her to provide more information regarding the report.
“They have asked me to come in based on the news published in the local newspapers, not based on the article in the Jakarta post,” she said, adding that she would meet them on Friday.
Asked if she was shocked that MACC contacted her over her comments, Fernandez said she was more concerned than surprised.

“I’m more concerned because the MACC should be looking into corruption (by parties) involved with (facilitating) migrant workers here, not the whistleblowers.
“It is wrong to threaten human rights defenders,” she said.

The letter which was faxed to the Tenaganita office yesterday read: “We in the MACC had recently come across in the local dailies the interview and statements made by the executive director of Tenaganita Irene Fernandez. We the MACC regard this matter quite seriously.”
In the Jakarta Post interview, Fernandez said Malaysia was unsafe for foreign workers, most of whom work as domestic workers, as the country lacked a legal framework or particular laws to protect these workers.
“Even worse, the Malaysian government upheld discrimination against housemaids and gardeners, both of whom are excluded from the newly-issued regulation on minimum wages,” she had said.
Fernandez received brickbats from many quarters particularly the government yesterday for her remarks.
Deputy Human Resources Minister Maznah Mazlan criticised the veteran activist’s remarks as being “unethical, inaccurate and unpatriotic.”
‘I am not unpatriotic’

Responding to this, Fernandez said she would only be deemed unpatriotic if she did not highlight the inherent flaws within the system.
“My statement is not unpatriotic. It will be unpatriotic of me if I allowed bad governance to continue. I have to put right where there are wrongs,” she said.
She added that her comments would not jeopardise Malaysia’s bilateral ties with its neighbours as Indonesians already had the perception that Malaysia was an unsafe place for them to work especially in certain sectors.

“Even yesterday there was a protest at the Malaysian embassy over the death of three Indonesians. People are already seeing it as an unsafe place,” she said.
She also cited the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report which placed Malaysia as one of the countries to watch for this offence – two years in a row.
She stressed that her comments would not tarnish the country’s image as the matters brought up during the interview were for the betterment of the system.
“This is about raising the standards and human rights. What is wrong with that? We are merely trying to raise the standards,” she said.

“We speak from our experience in dealing with such matters for almost 20 years. We make these comments based on our interactions with the affected community, our expansive network form the source country (where the workers come from). Based on these experiences, we make our statement,” she added.
Fernandez reiterated that the government was arrogant in its approach to the rights of foreign workers and it needed to change this attitude.

“It is time for the government to accept the truth with humility and address the omissions and commission for the rights of these workers,” she said.
Fernandez also added that she had send some corrections to Jakarta Post for misquoting her in their article.
These concerned five statements on how employers escaped recourse for their actions and corrections to statistics involving domestic workers who were arrested by the authorities.

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