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Report: Two high profile cases of forced labour forwarded to AGC for prosecution, says HR minister

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan speaks at a press conference at Wisma HRD Corp in Kuala Lumpur, April 12, 2022. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan is seeking the prosecution of two former employers of Indonesian maids who were allegedly mistreated and not paid for their services.

The cases have been forwarded to the attorney general’s chambers (AGC).

Saravanan told Malaysiakini that one of the former employers was a Tan Sri in his 70s while the other was a retired high ranking police officer.

“So far, we have referred two cases to the AGC. We have a lot of other cases, but these are the prominent ones that will become an eye-opener to others,” he was quoted as saying to Malaysiakini.

He however refused to reveal who the two high profile offenders were, saying that should the attorney general (AG) decide to bring the cases against them, then their identities would be revealed.

Responding to the news, Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Hermono welcomed Saravanan’s decision to forward the cases to the AGC after he had shared them with him at a recent meeting.

“We are glad to see the minister’s enthusiasm to explore every level of enforcement of the law including the AG’s role as a deterrent,” he said, but also urged that enforcement be carried out on all cases and not just these two high profile cases.

Hermono said that instances of employers holding back their Indonesian maids’ pay is a frequent issue, and amounted to forced labour, adding that the intentional hiring of undocumented maids usually works out well for the employers as they feel that they can escape punishment from the law.

“Many workers were sent home empty-handed after experiencing years of forced labour. The law was quick to punish undocumented workers but not the employers who hired them.

“This was another reason why many employers declined to renew the work permits,” he explained.

On previous occasions of cases where wages of domestic helpers were withheld by their employers, no further action would be taken should the latter repay the debt owed to the helper.

Hermono, however, explained that paying the salary of workers was an obligation and not to be mistaken as punishment.

However, he was confident that a new bilateral agreement that was signed on April 1 between Malaysia and Indonesia will strengthen safeguards for domestic workers entering the country after next month.

It was previously reported by Malaysiakini that a 43-year-old maid had escaped from her employer’s home and took refuge at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

She claimed that she had not received any form of payment for her 12 years of service to the Tan Sri, and after mediation, the employer finally made a payment of more than RM100,000 in mid-February.

The domestic worker who had remained at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for an additional year until the mediation concluded, only flew home in late February to see her parents for the first time after 12 years.

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