Probe on claims of Indian IT workers


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 16 Mar 2003

By WONG CHUN WAI

INDIAN High Commissioner Veena Sikri is fuming mad over the arrest and alleged ill-treatment of a large group of Indians, mostly IT workers, at a condominium in Brickfields recently. 

Her unhappiness is understandable. The IT workers were found to have valid documents and visa approvals. More upsetting to her was the manner in which the raid was carried out by the authorities. 

According to some of those arrested, they were handcuffed, manhandled and some of their visas defaced by police and immigration personnel. The alleged shoddy treatment of these Indian workers has been given prominent, if not emotional, treatment by the Indian press. 

There have even been calls to take a range of retaliatory measures against Malaysia in protest against the alleged ill-treatment of the 270 Indian nationals. 

According to the Indian media reports, the Indian Government was reviewing a bilateral civil aviation treaty signed some years ago and cleared by the Federal Cabinet this January. 

The spat between India and Malaysia could also affect tariff concessions on Malaysian palm oil exports, of which India is a major importer. 

The Indian media have good reason to be upset but they should not go overboard, let alone instigate and make matters worse. 

It will be inaccurate to suggest that there is a row between Malaysia and India. 

What has happened is an unfortunate incident involving the arrest of Indian nationals by the police and immigration who may have over-reacted. The Indian nationals have had their say, which was reported by the Malaysian media. 

The Home and Foreign ministries have correctly started investigating the matter by getting the officers involved to answer these allegations. If they had acted unfairly, then punishment must be meted against the culprits. 

There can be no excuse for over-zealous officers carrying out their duties beyond their powers, not just against Indian nationals but everyone, including Malaysians. 

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar was correct in saying that Malaysia viewed the complaints seriously and would inform the Indian Government of its findings. 

However, Veena Sikri said Syed Hamid's remarks “did not provide answers” and that she was not happy with the police for not allowing her consular officers access to the detained workers. 

In all fairness to Syed Hamid, he needs all the facts on his table before he can make any comments on the allegations. For that, a full investigation must first be carried out to ascertain the truth. 

Entrepreneur Minister Datuk Nazri Abdul Aziz reportedly had an earful from two Indian ministers when he flew into New Delhi last Tuesday. He told the Indian reporters that there was no deliberate policy against Indian nationals and promised that action would be taken against those responsible. 

The raid at the Brickfields condominium is said to have followed complaints from the public over allegations of foreigners with forged travel documents in the area. But, according to reports, these were not ordinary manual workers but professionals with technical expertise. 

Whether these foreigners are professionals or ordinary labourers, they are guests of Malaysia and deserve to be treated properly. 

The matter has been given attention by Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, so India can rest assured that the episode would not be swept under the carpet. 

The police have received plenty of bad press over the arrest of the Indian nationals and they must now quickly complete their investigations and publicise their findings. 

Wong Chun Wai can be reached at onthebeat@thestar.com.my  

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