14th July 2015.
Yes it’s cool for US President Barack Obama to become the first sitting President to visit a federal prison, as part of a push he plans to reform the criminal justice system.
But one wouldn’t expect the same man to flip flop and up Malaysia to Tier 2 in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report just to make it possible for the Southeast Asian nation to sign on the Transpacific Partnership Agreement.
If the source quoted by Reuters is accurate, I certainly cannot comprehend how Obama plays up a self-styled reformist, humanitarian profile and in the same stride chooses large profits and trade deals over lives lost.
Especially since Malaysia has not done anything to deserve being pushed up to Tier 2.
The Malaysian government introduced a recent amendment to the Anti Trafficking Act 2007 to allow for the employment of documented refuges and the setting up of a high level agency to manage anti-trafficking efforts.
We are however yet to see how effective the implementation of this amended Act would be in combating trafficking.
One hint, however is the manner in which Malaysia dealt with the discovery of mass graves operated by traffickers.
The government concluded there were no criminal elements leading to the death of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrant workers whose bodies were exhumed out of mass graves.
A local NGO, Tenaganita, wrote a report about these camps years back.
Furthermore, a recent damning news report in a local newspaper said the nation’s security personnel and law officers at Malaysian borders are corrupt.
The New Straits Times claimed that evidence of this systemic corruption is found in a “controversial report compiled by the Special Branch”, which is “the result of 10 years of covert, deep-cover surveillance and intelligence gathering by the Special Branch at the nation’s border checkpoints, and at different enforcement agencies throughout the country”.
Eye witness accounts of local villagers point to the fact the police knew about the refugees and migrant workers who were held captive in these camps.
If this is not enough, US senator Robert Menendez had reportedly accused Obama of strong-arming the US State Department to place Malaysia higher in the next TIP report.
One thing is clear- the TIP report has certainly not taken into account Malaysia’s appalling record when it comes to dealing with trafficking issues. It has dismissed the links between corrupt security officials and traffickers and Malaysia’s lack of political will to tackle this problem.
In doing so the US state department had lost its credibility and its annual report deserves to be thrashed in the bin.
And Obama’s government’s insistence to up Malaysia to the less odious Tier 2, despite calls from regional and international civil society organizations and human rights groups, is like the President playing a perpetual middle finger at us.
It certainly does not match up to the personality of a Nobel Peace Prize recipient or someone who fights for the rights of prison inmates.
Member of Parliament Klang.