Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Modern Slavery

p.s. I have been meaning to post this last week before i headed back to my Kampungku Kota Tinggi for my brother's kenduri.


I had a small chat in the ladies with one of our office cleaners, as usual, and was informed that her employer i.e. the bank’s contractor is yet to pay their November salary. The boss apparently has been giving excuses that he will pay them tomorrow and that tomorrow never come and it's almost Christmas. Perhaps, after seeing my expression, she told me that she survived this far by borrowing money from her friends.

I can’t help but feeling mad. I don’t think my employer did not pay the boss but then again, when I was working with my previous employer, I was told by the mechanic who fixed the company’s car, it took as long as 6 months before they got their payments. Wow, that’s bloody long for a company ‘that issue Notice of Demand when you don’t pay your loan after 6 months’. These people are resourceful and she told me that her husband does odd jobs and ask me to let her know if there is any job he could take up. I will, I told her and I told myself that I would let my Admin big boss know about this issue, since I normally bump into him during lunch hour. I’ll do whatever it takes because I cannot stomach the fact that these people are not being paid for all their hard works and imagining how many people are affected by this – especially their loved ones.

I always tell my friends that everything I read always come to me – for a reason. So today (before my conversation with the cleaner), I was reading “Lured into Bondage” by George Wehrfritz, Erika Kinetz and Jonathan Kent in Newsweek April 21, 2008.

It tells about predicaments faced by many foreign employees ‘enslaved’ by ‘their masters’ – subcontracted factories to many big-named companies in the world. Malaysia, as one of the developing nations that are able to provide cheap labours, has been mentioned in the article too many a time. Yes, we provide cheap labour by ‘hiring’ desperate-for-better-future Indonesians, Bangladeshis and Burmeses.

So, you will ask – if these people are treated so badly, why don’t they quit? Why don’t they go back home?. The ‘masters’ are pro conmen – they tricked these souls to sign multiple-year contract and if they run, the ‘masters’ will report to the police f(a)rce and hey presto – they are called “PATI” and if they were caught by the f(a)rce, they will subject to arrest (RELA loves doing this), imprisonment and caning before being sent home. I am sure you will choose making a meagre pay to being locked up, right? These souls have few places to turn for help by law -provides them with no legal protections.

If you still remember, early this year TESCO Malaysia landed in a hot soup, after a report saying that it exploited its foreign workers, which by UN’s definition – they are, forced labour a.k.a. slaves.

International Organisation for Migration, which is based in Geneva, in its report, “singles out Malaysia as regional economic leader with the resources and government infrastructure to fight the trafficking of men, women and children into sex and commercial trades, but is making no significant effort to do so and has been ranked as worse as Burma and North Korea in terms of seriousness in combating human trafficking”. And our ex-foreign minister calls the report all false (huh liar liar pants on fire) and said that “Malaysia is a country that does not encourage trafficking in persons”. Yea right, Botak. Look what Gomen did to Madam Irene Fernandez when she published her report on how Gomen treated the immigrants at the detention centre way back in 1995. Alhamdullillah, justice prevailed after being ‘artificially’ denied for 13 years.

This article also says that human trafficking is a new chapter in globalisation story that a growing migratory work force trapped in conditions that verge on slavery. While I was typing this, I feel sorry for ‘the slaves I hired’ (indirectly) that assembles hard disk and many more components in my PC.

Should we detest globalisation? With no globalisation, I am sure we could not afford many things. By supporting globalisation, we are also giving them the opportunity to provide for their family – by job creations.

That’s what I like what Obama brings to us – he makes us believe that conscience, honesty, integrity and dignity should be part of our lives. Being a responsible social corporate is no longer a PR stunt – it is how we give back to the community. It is about taking care of people who work for us and makes this world a better place for our generation and many more to come.

I just wish that if we see injustice, we would do something about it. Let’s be a caring lot – not for reputation – but to ‘feed’ our soul. When we do good (no matter how small it is), we feel good. That makes us humans more ‘humane’.

p.s. Like Carnation, I just know that Snowdrops - one of my favourite flowers - signifies compassion

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