Sin Chew Daily
The fact that Malaysia remains on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State invariably deals a severe blow on the country's international image.
Put it this way, we have never been a star performer in any international human trafficking report. Prior to this, we were on several occasions put in the lowest Tier 3 alongside the likes of Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Several years ago, given the government's positive effort and hard work, Malaysia managed to ascend to the more respectable Tier 2, but the momentum was short-lived and we were subsequently downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
The government should adopt speedy and effective measures to tackle human trafficking crimes so that the country can deliver itself out of the unglamorous Tier 2 Watch List and improve its standing. If we take no actions or have not done enough, it is likely for the situation to deteriorate and our ranking to slip further.
To be fair, the government has never condoned human trafficking activities. As a matter of fact, the Trafficking in Persons Report has admitted that the Malaysian government has indeed put in significant efforts, including the appointment of two experts to extend help to the victims and save over a hundred of them.
The thing is, the government has not done enough, prompting the Report to conclude that the Malaysia government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
Human trafficking activities have been rampant in the country. It is imperative for the government to demonstrate its resolvedness by putting in more resources to curtail human trafficking activities.
The recent Ops Covid-19 Benteng initiated by the police saw the detention of 371 skippers in four states within only four days. Additionally, the police arrested three immigration officials suspected of colluding with foreign human trafficking syndicates at Pasir Gudang ferry terminal in Johor a few days back. This shows how serious the situation is.
The severity of the human trafficking issue has highlighted the deficiency in our system as well as corruption on the part of government officials. The authorities must decisively overhaul the system and make unbending efforts to crush people smuggling syndicates.
In the meantime, there has to be improved transparency in the handling of admission of migrant workers into this country. Where law enforcement is concerned, not only should the culprits be apprehended, they must also be indicted so as to warn off potential offenders.
According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, "the government prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers", and this is obviously not sufficient to effectively weed out human trafficking activities.
The bodies of suspected Rohingya and Bangladeshi people smuggling victims were discovered in Wang Kelian mass graves in Perlis in 2015. The revelation shocked the entire nation and the government subsequently set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incident. Unfortunately no outcome from the investigation has been made public and no one has been prosecuted, raising public doubts over how determined the government was in battling the human trafficking vice.
The police have recently stepped up their effort to fight human trafficking syndicates, which is a good move. The government and enforcement authorities need to be firm and make sure the culprits will be sanctioned by the law.