Border control measures need to be tightened and weaknesses rectified, especially issues related to corruption, to prevent the country from being targeted by international human trafficking syndicates, said human rights activist Datuk Dr Madeline Berma.
She said if firm action was not taken to improve the existing system and the community’s indifference towards human trafficking was allowed to continue, it was possible that a discovery of a mass grave such as the discovery of the one in Wang Kelian, Perlis, a few years ago could recur.
Madeline, who is also Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow, said Malaysia had become a target country for human trafficking syndicates partly because there were weaknesses in the system that could be manipulated by those involved.
"If it was based on economic and peace factors, why didn’t they go to other neighbouring countries that are richer than us? Why did they choose to come here?
"This shows that there are other factors, and they (syndicates) see loopholes in the system due to corruption and they take advantage of it,” she told Bernama in a special interview with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) recently.
Madeline, who is also Universiti Malaysia Sarawak honorary professor, said it was surprising that mass human trafficking activities could take place at the country’s borders as they are closely guarded by enforcement agencies with adequate assets and training.
While stressing that the issue of human trafficking needs to be taken seriously as it involves human rights and national security, she believed that the problem occurred due to corruption and was seen as a profitable business.
She said the groups’ smooth journey to enter Malaysia also showed that the syndicates had an extensive network in other countries.
She claimed that Malaysians’ interest in getting goods at a lower price was one of the factors making this country a location for human trafficking activities as there is a demand for manpower, especially from industries that require a lot of unskilled labour.
"In fact, some big local companies involved in the oil palm industry and medical gloves have had their goods detained at foreign ports because there were elements of forced labour and human trafficking,” she added.
She said such a situation had given a bad image to the country, which has been regarded as "not serious" in tackling the issue, causing Malaysia to be placed in Tier 3 in the US State Department's 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
To improve the country’s image on the issue, Madeline said, all quarters, including individuals, communities and families, need to play their respective roles, work together, and not blame each other.
She said every individual in this country has a responsibility towards others and needs to come forward and show concern if they see or know something that is not right happening in their neighbourhood or at their workplace.
"At the community level, awareness programmes related to corruption and human trafficking need to be intensified so that the public is aware of the issue, while government agencies need to be more serious in addressing the problem by introducing stricter policies and laws,” she said.
According to Madeline, the local media also has a great responsibility to foster community awareness of related issues and report incidents or issues involving human trafficking.
She also said that close cooperation between government agencies was the only way to address the issue and improve the country’s position in future US State Department annual TIP Report.
"The cooperation of other law enforcement agencies and the people is essential to curb this issue. This should not be placed on MACC’s shoulders alone. The people should be the eyes and ears of the MACC and come forward to make complaints if they come across this issue around them,” she said. - Bernama
TAGS: MACC, human trafficking, Madeline Berma, corruption, community