Friday, November 12, 2010

GERHARD HOFFSTAEDTER 08 Nov, 2010 01:00 AM Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in Malaysia last week to discuss her planned East Timor regional processing centre for asylum-seekers. She was welcomed with much pomp and ceremony. Malaysia has much to feel positive about. The previous week, Malaysian authorities had shut down a major human-trafficking syndicate operating out of the country's immigration department, one of those arrested was a senior official in that department. As a reward Malaysia received high accolades from the Prime Minister. Indeed, it is highly unusual in Malaysia for high-ranking officials to be arrested in such a public fashion. Malaysia is trying to reinvent itself, yet again, as a country that cares about human rights and international treaties. In 2009, the United States criticised Malaysia for its poor performance in the field of human trafficking. Its track record on asylum-seekers fares even worse. Malaysia's subsequent revisions and better enforcement of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007, public relations and awareness campaigns, and training of enforcement officers is widely seen as appeasement and a smokescreen devised to shift focus on to the good work being done around human trafficking. Most strikingly, people smugglers now face a maximum sentence of 20 years' jail or a fine of RM500,000 ($A170,000) or both as a result of the Act. Previously, the Immigration Act carried a penalty of a $A5000 fine or three years' imprisonment, or both. There are two things very wrong here. The first is that the recent anti-trafficking sting has not played out according to the international rule of law. The nine arrested, seven of whom were from the immigration department and suspected of having taken bribes for their services, are now under arrest under the Internal Security Act. This is a relic of British colonial rule and allows the Malaysian Government to detain people without trial for two years. And this is renewable indefinitely. Thus it allows for indefinite detention without trial.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in Malaysia last week to discuss her planned East Timor regional processing centre for asylum-seekers. She was welcomed with much pomp and ceremony.Malaysia has much to feel positive about. The previous week, Malaysian authorities had shut down a major human-trafficking syndicate operating out of the country's immigration department, one of those arrested was a senior official in that department.
As a reward Malaysia received high accolades from the Prime Minister. Indeed, it is highly unusual in Malaysia for high-ranking officials to be arrested in such a public fashion.
Malaysia is trying to reinvent itself, yet again, as a country that cares about human rights and international treaties. In 2009, the United States criticised Malaysia for its poor performance in the field of human trafficking.
Its track record on asylum-seekers fares even worse. Malaysia's subsequent revisions and better enforcement of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007, public relations and awareness campaigns, and training of enforcement officers is widely seen as appeasement and a smokescreen devised to shift focus on to the good work being done around human trafficking.
Most strikingly, people smugglers now face a maximum sentence of 20 years' jail or a fine of RM500,000 ($A170,000) or both as a result of the Act. Previously, the Immigration Act carried a penalty of a $A5000 fine or three years' imprisonment, or both.
There are two things very wrong here. The first is that the recent anti-trafficking sting has not played out according to the international rule of law. The nine arrested, seven of whom were from the immigration department and suspected of having taken bribes for their services, are now under arrest under the Internal Security Act. This is a relic of British colonial rule and allows the Malaysian Government to detain people without trial for two years. And this is renewable indefinitely. Thus it allows for indefinite detention without trial.