Of the amendments to Malaysia's Anti-Trafficking Act, we have been voicing our concerns since 1/7/2010...The amendments that were needed were not there, but those that will cause greater injustice were being introduced...
But, alas they passed the Act at the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House of Parliament) on about 18/7/2010 ...and I really wonder what the Opposition Members of Parliament said about the amendments.
There is still hope - as this will also have to be passed at the Senate (the Upper House) and thereafter receive royal assent before becoming law...
The Government heralded a new era with the passing of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons (Amendment) Bill and – more importantly – the inclusion of NGOs in fighting the crime.
THE past week marked another milestone in Malaysia’s battle against human trafficking.
The Dewan Rakyat passed the Anti-Trafficking in Persons (Amendment) Bill 2010 to now include new offences and to enhance the fines for the existing ones.
More significant was that Tenaganita, which has worked endlessly in highlighting the plight of those who were exploited or trafficked even before such a legislation was enacted, was invited by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein to join the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants.
Local non-governmental organisations have complained that the Government does not go all the way to work with them to fight the crime.
This new cooperation heralds a new era, away from the days when authorities would deny that such offences even occurred.
In winding up the debate on the Bill on Thursday, Hishammuddin said the amendments sought to tackle human trafficking in a more comprehensive manner because the crimes not only involved illegal human transmigration, but also the smuggling of drugs and firearms.
In 2007, Malaysia was downgraded from the United States Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3 after the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons found that Malaysia had not complied fully with its minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Last month, Malaysia was upgraded back to Tier 2 Watch List following the Government’s efforts to put in place measures which comply with those standards.
Tenaganita had in the past reported that the Government was focused on the sex trade but not on other types of trafficking, such as those involving migrant labourers, mail-order brides, baby-making factories and human organs.
Along with the new amendments, if the authorities strengthened their investigation methods, evidence gathering and victim protection as advocated by NGOs, Malaysia can hope to be taken out of the Tier 2 Watch List and placed in Tier 2 proper.
Under Clause 10 of the Bill, a person who profits from exploiting trafficked individuals will be fined not less than RM500,000 or up to RM1mil, a 10-fold increase from the existing Act.
A new section now criminalises the exploitation of migrants and generating illegal income from the smuggling or harbouring of migrants.
Despite the rather low attendance of MPs due to the World Cup matches during this Parliament meeting that lasted 24 days from June 11, the House approved the 10th Malaysia Plan tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and six important Bills.
Besides the Anti-Trafficking in Persons (Amendment) Bill, the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill 2010, the Wildlife Conservation Bill 2010, Subordinate Courts (Amendment) Bill 2010, Judicial Appointments Commission (Amendment) Bill 2010 and the Hire-Purchase (Amendment) Bill 2010 were passed.Six other Bills were tabled for first reading: the Perbadanan Stadium Malaysia Bill 2010, Malaysian Timber Industry Board (Incorporation) (Amendment) Bill 2010, Moneylenders (Amendment) Bill 2010, Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Bill 2010, Goods and Services Tax Bill 2009 and the Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents (Amendment) Bill 2010.
Under the last Bill, property buyers will be protected from paying an inflated price for their property once it is passed.
Valuers, appraisers and estate agents who cheat or individuals who pose as any of the three would be slapped with a whopping maximum RM300,000 fine, an increase from the current RM10,000.
Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim who tabled the Bill for first reading on Thursday said the effort complies with the standards agreed upon in the General Agreement on Tariffs and the World Trade Organisation.
“The proposed law ensures that valuers, appraisers and estate agents are professionals in their dealings,” he told The Star.
He said the compliance was important as more cross-border business transactions were taking place and the high standards would attract buyers and strengthen the economy.
On Wednesday, both sides of the political divide urged the Government to draw up procedures on vehicle repossession and the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob gave his assurance that the ministry would prepare detailed procedures on vehicle repossession after the Hire and Purchase Act (Amendment) 2010 is approved.
Two motions were rejected last week – one to debate the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the sexual exploitation of Penan women and girls on Wednesday; and on Thursday, one to debate the case of Royal Malaysian Air Force Sgt N. Tharmendran who was allegedly tortured into confessing to stealing two jet engines.
As for the fight against corruption, Special Parliamentary Committee on corruption chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad announced at the Parliament lobby on Tuesday that the committee had presented its report to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on July 9.
He said Najib had given his assurance he would consider their proposal to give the power to prosecute corruption cases to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner, instead of the Attorney-General.
The MACC Annual Report 2009 was released to MPs on Tuesday.
Last week, the Public Accounts Committee also released its reports on the Rawang-Ipoh Electrified Double Tracking Project and the Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad Management.
At last, on 7/8/2010 we are starting to get support from Tenaganita and some other civil society groups..
Migrant rights NGO Tenaganita is still dissatisfied with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007 in tackling the smuggling of migrant workers, and wants separate legislation for better enforcement.
“There should be a separate Act for the offence of smuggling migrant workers because the thin line between the definitions of trafficking victims and smuggled migrant workers is confusing,” said Aegile Fernandez (left), Tenaganita's consultant manager for the anti-trafficking of humans unit.
“We've talked to our lawyers, who agree that it would be difficult for the various enforcement agencies to differentiate between the two,” she said.
Fernandez was responding to Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop's statements at a press conference after officiating a march in Kuala Lumpur today to raise awareness of child sex trafficking.
A member of the Bar Council had, during the press conference, quizzed the minister about Human Rights Watch Asia division deputy director Philip Robertson's remark that Malaysia was committing a “cardinal sin” for failing to differentiate between the trafficking and smuggling of people in the amendments to the Act.
Wira was adamant that the current Act was clear enough.
“I beg to differ. They are different elements that constitute two different offences. Both offences are clearly defined in the Act, so one must read it to understand clearly,” he said.
He added that the country need not worry about being downgraded in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report because in this year's report, Malaysia had ascended to the second tier watch list from the third.
Ready to ratify
Meanwhile, the deputy minister also announced that the government was finally ready to ratify the UN protocol complementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), saying they were not prepared to do so earlier.
“We were not ready because the infrastructure was not there. However, now we are more than ready to do so,” he said to loud applause from the crowd.
Abu Seman (right) shared with those present statistics of trafficking victims rescued in Malaysia and placed into protection shelters.
“1,656 victims from 19 countries were rescued and given an interim protection order. Only 484 of them were found to be genuine human trafficking victims, after investigations were conducted.”
“From this 484,291 of them are sex trafficking victims where 8.6 percent of them are under-age females.”
“Earlier this year, we launched a nine-point national action plan against trafficking in persons to focus on the efforts towards achieving the national goal to suppress the problem and outline the strategic directions for the next five years,” he added.
Speeding up prosecution
Abu Seman, who is the Tanah Masjid MP, also said that the attorney-general will work on speeding up the prosecution process for those charged with trafficking, by improving the training of prosecutors.
The march (left) today was part of the 'Petition Campaign to Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People' organised by The Body Shop with several NGOS such as Tenaganita, PS Save the Children and Nursalam.
A crowd of about 250 marched from the main entrance of the Pavilion shopping centre to Berjaya Times Square and back.
Their objective was to pressure the Malaysian government to sign the optional protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography which complements the CRC.
The CRC aims to enhance the protection of children from sexual exploitation. Malaysia is the remaining of three countries in Southeast Asia that has not yet ratified the document.- Malaysiakini, 7/8/2010, 'Separate Act needed for migrant worker smuggling'