Myanmar workers’ problems: Stop intimidation of activist blogger

Myanmar workers’ problems: Stop intimidation of activist blogger

More than three dozen civil society groups have issued a joint statement calling on a Japanese multinational corporation to stop intimidating activist-blogger Charles Hector, who had highlighted the plight of Myanmar migrant workers in the company’s plant in Malaysia. The Asian Human Rights Commission has separately expressed its outrage.


We, the undersigned civil society groups, are gravely concerned over the demands and threat of legal action for defamation against human rights lawyer, activist and blogger Charles Hector by Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd. According to a letter to Hector from the firm’s lawyers dated 11 February 2011, the company is demanding RM10 million from him within seven days as damages for libel. Failing which, he is being threatened with a defamation suit.

The company was reacting to postings in Hector’s blog that highlighted the plight of 31 Burmese migrant workers in Asahi Kosei who raised their grievances to their employer, and the reactions thereafter that included threats, termination and even attempted deportation back to Burma, Asahi Kosei is also demanding from Hector the removal of the blog postings and a public apology to the company to be published on his blog and in all major national English newspapers.

According to the joint media statement titled “Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd must respect Human Rights and Workers’ Rights. Reinstate Thiha Soe and Aung San without Loss of Benefits” which 82 migration and human rights organisations worldwide have endorsed (as at 16 February 2011), the Myanmar workers had made many complaints regarding non-payment of agreed wages and unlawful deductions from their wages as well as alterations of terms and conditions of work.

The workers, who confirmed the facts of their complaints, also alleged that they had been harassed by management “agents” (employees) and forced to agree to unfavourable terms and conditions including paying a penalty of RM50 per day of absence (RM50 for two days under new contract terms), which was far more than their basic pay of RM20 per day (RM23 per day under new contract terms). The workers also wanted paid medical leave, which is an entitlement in law. The migrant workers concerned were also preparing to lodge a complaint with the Labour Department to help resolve the problems they claimed to face.

Hector disclosed in a blog posting on 15 February that he had sent two e-mails on 8 and 9 February to the company raising the workers problems with them but he did not receive any reply from Asahi Kosei to refute the contents of the two e-mails or to deny its involvement in the dispute. Sadly, the company’s first and only response was made through its lawyer’s letter of 11 February, as mentioned above.

Asahi Kosei also claimed through its lawyers that it is not the employer of the Myanmar workers concerned and has no obligation to pay their wages directly to them or to supply accommodation or household appliances and utilities to them. The firm claims that the outsourcing agent (who has not been identified by the company) is the real employer of the migrant workers and thus has responsibility over them.

Asahi Kosei, therefore, alleges that Hector has committed libel by publicising the issue in his blog and naming the firm as the employer of the Myanmar migrant workers concerned.

We, the undersigned groups, call on Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd. to review and withdraw its demand and intended legal action against Charles Hector. It is against public interest to go after human rights activists, bloggers and media personnel who highlight any alleged human rights violations. Moreover, the company was given the opportunity to inform Hector of any inaccuracies in the information given to him when he made enquiries in two emails to the firm. The company has not explored all avenues in resolving the problem faced by the workers amicably before resorting to this demand and threat of legal action; it should focus its attention on resolving these problems.

In our view, Asahi Kosei’s action is unreasonable, arbitrary and heavy handed; aimed at the suppression of free expression and workers’ complaints. The company also appears to be pushing its responsibility for the workers to a dubious unknown and unnamed party and, directly or indirectly, obstructing the right of workers to legally resolve their labour problems through the proper channels available to both workers and employers.

It would also be commendable for Asahi Kosei to immediately reinstate the two workers and engage in the dispute resolution process according to Malaysian labour laws, with Labour Department intervention as legally provided in this country.

Likewise, we urge all employers to engage in the dispute resolution process according to employment legislation and to adhere to all relevant labour and other legislation in Malaysia which apply to local as well as migrant workers in this country. Employers should recognise and respect the rights of all workers, their human rights and human dignity.

We reiterate that all workers, including migrant workers, are human beings with inherent rights and fundamental freedoms. They are not commodities to be imported, exploited and deported at the whims of employers or their recruitment and outsourcing agents.

16 February 2011

Endorsed by:

  1. Aliran
  2. MagickRiver
  3. Centre for Policy Initiatives
  4. Centre for Orang Asli Concerns
  5. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
  6. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia [SABM]
  7. Civil Society Committee of Lim Lian Geok Cultural Development Centre
  8. LLG Cultural Development Centre Bhd
  9. Persatuan Pendidikan Sekolah-Sekolah Persendirian (Cina), Pulau Pinang
  10. Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (Brimas)
  11. Citizens International (Penang)
  12. Asian Migrant Centre
  13. Building and Woodworkers International (Switzerland)
  14. Women Institute for Reseach Development and Advancement (WIRDA)
  15. International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development
  16. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (Wami)
  17. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
  18. Thai Committee for Refugees (TCR)
  19. Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
  20. Human Rights Working Group-Indonesia
  21. International Movement for a Just World
  22. Norwegian Burma Committee
  23. Workers Assistance Center, Philippines
  24. Semarak Cerlang Nusa – Consultancy, Research, Education for Social
  25. Transformation (SCN-CREST), Indonesia
  26. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Indonesia
  27. Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), Timor Leste
  28. Union Network International-Malaysian Liaison Council (UNI-MLC)
  29. Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBC-Phils)
  30. Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Philippines
  31. KKSP Foundation, Indonesia
  32. Health Equity Initiatives
  33. Migrants Trade Union (MTU)
  34. NGOs in Myanmar Web Portal
  35. Myanmar Youth Knowledge Initiative
  36. SOS (Save Ourselves), Penang
  37. Penang Watch
  38. MEO-Net

Open letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd

18 February 2011

Mr. Takeshi Nishitsuji, President
Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd.
Lot 3377, Jalan Perusahaan Utama,
Taman Industri Selesa Jaya,
43300 Balakong, Selangor Darul Ehsan
Tel: +60 3 89614360
Fax: +60 3 89614354

Dear Mr Nishitsuji,

MALAYSIA: Protest against a threat of litigation against human rights lawyer, public interest advocate and blogger Mr. Charles Hector Fernandez

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to draw your attention regarding the instructions to T S Teoh & Partners, your legal representative, on the possibility of taking legal action for libel against Mr. Charles Hector Fernandez, a blogger and lawyer, regarding the posts in his blog you claim to be libellous.

In the demand letter dated 11 February 2011, but which was served on Mr. Fernandez on February 14, you claimed that the content of his post in his blog, on 8 February, titled ‘ Hopefully Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd won’t terminate/deport workers who claim rights’; and on 9 February, titled ‘ Urgent: Stop Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd from sending Thiha Soe (PP No: A 458011) back to Burma, were “very serious libel on our clients and have caused them much distress and embarrassment”.

Your Company also demanded a payment of RM10,000,000.00 (USD3,279,307) within seven days from him to “vindicate our clients reputation”, to “remove the said postings and a full written and unequivocal public retraction and written apology in terms to be approved by us and an undertaking not to repeat these allegations”.

As of today, the post that is subject of your complaint can still be accessed online. We understand that from the very beginning of this issue, Mr Fernandez had been trying to draw your attention to the plight of workers who are complaining. Mr Fernandez acted on legitimate complaints, like any other compassionate individuals would do, to hear and comment on the grievances of victims like them. On the same day the articles were posted, Mr. Fernandez sent emails to your Company asking for you to intervene. However, he has not received any response.

While we understand that legally your Company has the right to take legal action for the protection of your interests, we urge you to reconsider this path. Your Company, who has been doing business and providing employment in Malaysia, would rather have more to gain and more contributions should you withdraw the legal action on Mr Fernandez for the following reasons:

Narrating facts, evidence vs. narrating with malice

The content of Mr. Fernandez posts were purely narration of facts based on the information given to him by the Burmese migrant workers. He acted on behalf of the workers who are foreigners in Malaysian soil to assist them in obtaining remedies. In his posts, he asked questions and did not make declarations, wrote the term ‘allegedly’ and expressed human emotions of hope that your Company would respond to the workers’ plight.

As you are aware, the migrant workers are from Burma. Most of them could not speak the language that is spoken in Malaysia; thus, if these workers could not even speak the language, we certainly could not expect them to know all the legal and complaint mechanisms therein, if there is anything that we could call effective in a real sense that is available in Malaysia.

The role on which Mr Fernandez took on this case is very important. Where the state mechanisms are not known to victims, he has helped to inform the workers how to deal with it; and where information about complaints of violations are mostly unreported, he blogs on them for other people to intervene on behalf of the workers. We would not have known the case of these workers had it not been from his blog posts.

The complaint of the Burmese workers was only made possible to be put on record, particularly with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), because there are persons who assist in documenting their case. There was someone who could tell the workers the complaint mechanism available in a country where they are foreigners and in a place where they are most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In most cases, despite the endemic cases of violations on migrant workers, they prefer not to complain, to keep quiet and to just forget about what had happened to them for practical reasons.

As you are aware, the workers, whom you argue are the responsibility of the employment agencies from where you get their service, are from Burma. They came to Malaysia and agreed to terms, often outrightly violating minimum protection to migrant workers, because they needed the job. They needed money to support their families living in Burma, a country where most of their people would prefer leaving than staying. Burma is one of the many countries where employment opportunities could not be found and the people suffer from its own government who do not protect them.

Workers lack protection – inside and outside their country

As you are aware, if citizens coming from developed countries are in trouble in another country, they have their mechanism where their embassies and consulates would contact and communicate with their citizens in trouble. They invest human resources, time, money and expertise to protect and to represent the interest of their own citizens regardless of whether they are at home or on foreign soil. Their mechanism of protection and assistance extends beyond the borders of their own country.

But the Burmese migrant workers whom Mr. Fernandez is assisting do not have this protection and assistance mechanism from their own government. A government who could not protect their own citizens in their own soil could not be expected to protect their citizens who are in trouble in foreign countries. These workers were not provided with assistance on their complaints or asked what help they needed, for example legal assistance on labour and immigration proceedings; as should be done by governments.

The wrongful deportation, as Mr. Fernandez had it described in his blog, of the Burmese migrant workers was a statement of fact and reflects the realities of the extreme difficulties these workers would have to deal with their government. How possible it is to deport a person back to his country when it is done in a procedure that was questionable? When a person in foreign countries had nothing but himself anything can be done on him. He has no protection at all. The Burmese workers, too, are themselves aware and know full well that they can never expect their own government to help them remedy their plight.

Implications of the legal action

We understand that any aggrieved party, like your Company, has the legal right to pursue complaints should they feel that their rights are violated. The AHRC is a strong advocate of effective complaints mechanism in Asian countries, particularly helping the victims of human rights violations. Your company has the right to take legal action in the same manner the victims of human rights violations do against officers of the State.

However, there is an enormous difference between upholding the person’s or the entities lawful right to complain for its self preservation as against the right to complain to have the basic recognition of a fundamental right. The latter has tremendous and deep consequences, not only on the persons or entities, but it affects the entire people in the society within their own country once they are suppressed. Needless to say, the reason why the violations of human rights, in its unspeakable terms, goes largely unreported and is not exposed to the public in Malaysia is because of the lack of recognition by their own society and their government of the fundamental principle of human rights: Freedom of Expression.

In Malaysia, laws have been used as a tool to prosecute persons who purely narrate facts, to prosecute and impose rigorous imprisonment on persons who only intend to initiate discourse on the conditions they face in their own country. They are charged, prosecuted and punished for expressing their thoughts and opinions, not because what they say is wrong or malicious but to suppress them from exposing the realities and the human conditions in their own country. In most countries, including Malaysia and Singapore, this type of legal action attacks not only the individual, but any sort of discourse on human rights and democracy.

Thus, we urged your Company not to be part of this concerted effort to suppress the struggle of the Malaysian people for recognition of the principles of Free Speech and Expression in Malaysia. We urged your Company to help them to have this fundamental right recognised not only in books and laws in their own society. By pursuing the legal action on Mr Fernandez you are already helping in abusing a system of justice.

We urged your Company to uphold the principles of Corporate Responsibility but not abusing the legal process. In this way you can contribute to social progress in countries where you are allowed to do business to protect and uphold the interest of the people.

Yours sincerely,

Wong Kai Shing
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Anwar Berada Di Temerloh Esok

Anwar Berada Di Temerloh Esok
19/02/2011 Share

PAHANG 19 FEB: Selepas Seberang Jaya, Pulau Pinang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim dijadual mengadakan ceramah di Temerloh, Pahang pada Ahad ini.

Beliau dijangka bersolat Maghrib dan bertakzirah di Masjid Batu Satu, Temerloh sekitar jam 7.30 malam sebelum menyertai jamuan di Dewan Taman Rimba, Mentakab kira-kira sejam kemudian.

Ketua Umum KEADILAN itu dijadual berceramah bersama pimpinan lain, antaranya Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, Tian Chua, Datuk Seri Chua Jui Meng, Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman dan Cik Gu Koh.

Anwar juga akan berceramah di tapak Markas PAS, Simpang Empat, Kerdau bersama Tuan Ibrahim, Tian Chua, Jui Meng, Fauzi dan Ahmad Nizam Abdul Hamid.


Pertumbuhan Ekonomi 2010, Malaysia Terus Terkebelakang Berbanding Jiran : Anwar Ibrahim
Ditulis oleh Ezli
19/02/2011 Share

Pertumbuhan ekonomi sebanyak 7.2% yang dicatatkan negara pada tahun 2010 perlu dikaji dengan lebih dekat untuk memahami keseluruhan implikasinya.

Angka 7.2% perlu dibandingkan dengan pencapaian jiran-jiran kita dan bukannya dinilai secara bersendirian. Singapura dan Indonesia contohnya masing-masing berjaya mencatatkan pertumbuhan 14.5% dan 6.1% dalam tahun 2010.

Kedua-dua jiran kita ini mengatasi pertumbuhan Malaysia; apatah lagi apabila pertumbuhan Indonesia adalah berdasarkan angka pertumbuhan asas yang lebih tinggi kerana Indonesia tidak mengalami penguncupan ekonomi dalam tahun 2009 seperti mana Malaysia dan Singapura.

Pertumbuhan 14.5% yang dicatatkan Singapura disokong oleh pertumbuhan kukuh dalam sektor perkilangan pada kadar 29.7% pertumbuhan tahunan. Jika dibandingkan dengan Singapura, pencapaian kita malap dalam kedua-dua aspek - pertumbuhan ekonomi hanyalah separuh dari yang dicapai Singapura, sementara pertumbuhan sektor perkilangan pada kadar 11.4% hanyalah setakat satu pertiga pencapaian Singapura.

Penjelasan kedua-dua kerajaan dalam menerangkan perbezaan pertumbuhan sektor perkilangan ini adalah amat berbeza. Singapura menyatakan bahawa permintaan yang kukuh dari pasaran dunia memesatkan pertumbuhan sektor perkilangannya, sementara Malaysia pula menyalahkan pasaran dunia sebagai akibat kelembapan sektor perkilangannya - padahal kedua-dua negara sama-sama bergantung kepada barangan eksport dan pasaran dunia.

Hakikatnya, barangan yang dikilang di Malaysia semakin hilang daya saingnya di pasaran dunia kerana kita tersekat di tangga nilai yang bawah dan terpaksa bersaing dengan negara-negara yang struktur kosnya lebih murah; sedangkan pesaing seperti Singapura terus menghasilkan barangan bernilai tinggi. Amaran mengenai masalah ini telah diberikan sejak sedekad yang lalu, namun tidak ada satu langkah yang berkesan yang diambil kerajaan selain dari retorik politik yang dibayar oleh rakyat.

Pertumbuhan sektor perkilangan yang lebih rendah berbanding jiran diburukkan lagi dengan penguncupan dua sektor penyumbang utama di dalam suku keempat 2010. Sektor perlombongan dan pertanian adalah penyumbang utama kepada pendapatan Kerajaan Persekutuan melalui hasil minyak dan gas serta kelapa sawit. Kedua-dua sektor ini mencatatkan penguncupan dalam suku keempat pada kadar 1.3% (perlombongan) dan 4.3% (pertanian).

Akibatnya, pertumbuhan tahunan yang sangat rendah pada kadar 0.2% (perlombongan) dan 1.7% (pertanian) adalah satu lagi petanda bahawa ekonomi kita semakin malap.

Pandangan ini diperkuatkan lagi oleh angka-angka beberapa indeks yang digunakan untuk menilai sentimen masyarakat niagawan dan orang ramai mengenai hala tuju ekonomi negara. Indeks Suasana Perniagaan yang diterbitkan oleh Institut Kajian Ekonomi Malaysia (MIER) hilang 5.4 mata dalam suku keempat 2010 untuk jatuh ke paras bawah 100 mata buat kali pertama dalam tempoh dua tahun.

Malah, keyakinan masyarakat niagawan ke atas prospek ekonomi seperti yang dilambangkan oleh indeks ini menunjukkan penurunan sejak awal 2010 lagi. Bagi sentimen keyakinan orang ramai pula, walaupun Indeks Sentimen Pengguna menokok ke paras 117.2 mata dalam suku keempat, paras itu masih belum setanding dengan paras keyakinan tahun 2007 sebelum kerajaan menaikkan harga minyak secara mendadak dalam tahun 2008.

YAB Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak sepatutnya lebih ikhlas dan mengakui bahawa ada jurang yang besar di antara pengumuman projek-projek mega yang dibuat dibawah ETP dan realiti ekonomi yang ditanggung masyarakat niagawan dan orang ramai. Ramai di kalangan rakyat Malaysia yang masih ragu-ragu bahawa siri pengumuman projek itu hanyalah wayang yang akhirnya akan menguntungkan golongan pemerintah dan niagawan elit tanpa menyelesaikan masalah pokok dan struktur ekonomi negara.

Pengurusan fiskal dan kewangan negara juga menunjukkan perbezaan yang besar di antara Malaysia dan jiran kita, terutamanya Indonesia.

Tidak seperti Malaysia, Indonesia berjaya mengelak dari kemelesetan ekonomi tahun 2009 dan terus mencatatkan pertumbuhan kukuh sebanyak 6.1% dalam tahun 2010, menjadikannya salah sebuah ekonomi paling mampan di antara 20 negara terkaya di dunia. Laporan United Nations Global Investment Trend Monitor (diterbitkan oleh UNCTAD pada 17 Januari 2011) mencatatkan aliran masuk pelaburan asing (FDI) sebanyak USD12.8 bilion bagi tahun 2010; yang kedua tertinggi di rantau ini selepas Singapura.

Pelaburan baru menyumbang sebanyak 32.2% kepada ekonomi Indonesia sementara perbelanjaan kerajaan menyumbang hanyalah 9.1% kepada pertumbuhan ekonomi. Keseluruhan pencapaian ini berasaskan perbelanjaan kerajaan yang berhemah dan tidak berlebihan. Angka defisit fiskal dan hutang kerajaan hanyalah masing-masing 1.1% dan 28.3% berbanding KDNK bagi tahun 2010.

Keadaannya sangat berbeza di Malaysia. Jumlah hutang Kerajaan Persekutuan telah mencecah RM407 bilion menjelang akhir 2010, bersamaan 53.1% berbanding saiz KDNK negara. Kegagalan merancakkan pelaburan swasta menyebabkan kerajaan terlalu bergantung kepada projek-projek mega dan perbelanjaan kerajaan untuk mencapai sasaran pertumbuhan ekonomi, sehinggakan defisit fiskal menjadi salah satu masalah utama ekonomi negara.

Defisit fiskal negara memuncak pada aras 7% dalam tahun 2009 dan hanya menurun kepada 5.6% tahun lalu, sedangkan sasaran kerajaan yang diumumkan di dalam Rancangan Malaysia Ke-10 adalah 5.3% bagi tahun 2010. Malaysia hanya berjaya menarik aliran masuk pelaburan asing (FDI) sebanyak USD7 bilion dalam tahun 2010, jauh ditinggalkan Singapura yang mendapat sejumlah USD37.4 bilion aliran masuk pelaburan asing.

Berdasarkan angka-angka dan perbandingan ini, jelas bahawa pertumbuhan 7.2% hanyalah satu lagi bukti bahawa ekonomi kita semakin terkebelakang berbanding dengan negara jiran. Daya saing Malaysia di pasaran antarabangsa semakin merudum dan kedudukan fiskal serta kewangan negara lebih buruk berbanding negara-negara jiran.

Rakyat tidak akan terkeliru dengan pelbagai kempen dan janji manis yang dibuat kerajaan dan akan terus menuntut reformasi ekonomi agar prospek ekonomi yang malap ini dapat diubah. Reformasi ekonomi hanya akan berkesan sekiranya didokong oleh reformasi politik yang ikhlas.

Malangnya, Kerajaan Persekutuan yang ada telah dibuktikan berkali-kali tiada keikhlasan dalam melaksanakan reformasi politik. Makanya, sebarang dasar ekonomi yang diperkenalkan sebagai reaksi politik tidak akan berjaya menyelesaikan masalah kemalapan ekonomi Malaysia.

19 FEBRUARI 2011

PRK Kerdau, Merlimau serentak 6 Mac


KUCHING, 18 Feb: Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) mengumumkan hari mengundi bagi pilihan raya kecil (PRK) Kerdau, Pahang akan diadakan pada 6 Mac ini.

Pengerusi SPR, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof turut memaklumkan bahawa tarikh penamaan calon PRK Kerdau pada 26 Februari.

Ini menjadikan PRK Kerdau dan Merlimau, Melaka diadakan serentak.

Pada 28 Januari lalu, SPR mengumumkan penamaan calon bagi PRK Merlimau ialah pada 26 Februari dan hari pengundian pula 6 Mac.


Bob Lokman mengistiharkan diri sebagai Ahli PAS di hadapan 30ribu Pemuda PAS di Kota Sarang Semut,Kedah sebentar tadi.Sempena Himpunan Pemuda PAS seluruh Malaysia.Allahhuakbar..!!!

Sejak awal pagi tadi, ribuan membanjiri kompleks PAS Kedah di Kota Sarang semut dekat Alor Setar bagi menghadiri himpunan besar-besaran Dewan Pemudanya bagi menghadapi pilihan raya umum ke-13 yang dijangka tidak lama lagi.

Mereka mensasarkan kehadiran 30,000 - sekali ganda lebih banyak daripada perhimpunan yang sama pada 2006 di Kota Bharu.

Mereka pada mulanya bercadang berkumpul di Selangor tetapi ekoran percaturan politik bagi mengekalkan penguasaan kerajaan PAS Kedah, mereka menukar tempat program ke situ.

Antara yang hadir Menteri Besar Kedah Datuk Seri Azizan Razak, Naib Presiden PKR Salehuddin Ayub dan Ketua Pemuda Nasrudin Hassan.

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