PUTRAJAYA: A special court to handle human trafficking cases has been set up as part of the measures to get Malaysia into the top-ranked Tier 1 list of countries in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) annual report by 2020.
In a special interview with The Star, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said another step towards achieving this goal was having a representative of the Higher Education Ministry on the Anti-Human Trafficking and Anti-Migrant Smuggling Council (Mapo).
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, also urged NGOs critical of Malaysia’s efforts in fighting human trafficking to work with the Government.
“I hope our serious commitment to combating this problem will yield good results,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
The interview followed a special report on Aug 14 by The Star’s R.AGE team on an international human trafficking ring that used private colleges to lure young Bangladeshis here with false promises of higher education and job opportunities.
On Aug 5, The Star also published a special report on foreign child beggars being used by syndicates linked to human traffickers.
“Thank you for the effort taken by you (The Star) and NGOs in identifying the victims, and I really praise the effort taken by your organisation,” Dr Ahmad Zahid said, adding that the Home Ministry was open to working more closely with The Star to highlight the problem.
On the latest measures to fight human trafficking, Dr Ahmad Zahid announced that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had already agreed in principle to set up a special court to tackle human trafficking cases.
“To start with, a special court (to hear human trafficking cases) has already been set up in Putrajaya,” he said, adding that a judge familiar with such matters had been identified, and the court would be hearing cases “soon”.
“Eventually, if there are many cases in other states, we will probably set up similar courts in those states,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
Another measure proposed by the AGC was the use of a video link system to record a victim’s statement.
He said the system would complement existing mechanisms for handling human trafficking cases.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who chairs Mapo, agreed when a suggestion was made during the interview for the council to include a representative from the Higher Education Ministry. This was in order to address the problem of foreign students tricked by syndicates.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who has been Home Minister since 2013, has led the Government’s coordinated push to fight human trafficking.
He said that as of July 31, there were 277 cases reported by enforcement agencies involving 173 cases of sexual exploitation and 104 cases of forced labour.
“So far, 454 arrests have been made in those cases,” he said.
In addition, since January, 966 trafficking victims have been rescued and given protection in shelter homes.
In the 2017 TiP report, Malaysia was upgraded to Tier 2 from being on the watchlist of Tier 2.
On his comment regarding NGOs that remain critical of Malaysia’s rise to Tier 2 in the report, Dr Ahmad Zahid invited those organisations to come on board and help the Government help the victims and increase awareness of the problem.
“I hope those NGOs that have been very ‘hard-hitting’ will be open-minded and work with us,” he said.
“We may have different opinions but there is nothing wrong for us to work together for the sake of national interest – for the sake of our country.
“I am here, extending my arms to welcome all parties to work with the Government, especially the Home Ministry.”