Last Updated on March 8, 2018, 12:56 p.m.
Human rights organisation Tenaganita has urged the police force to ensure officers at all levels are more knowledgeable about human trafficking.
Speaking to FMT, the NGO’s director Glorene Das said she had noticed a lack of understanding among officers at all levels.
“For example, if you were to lodge a complaint regarding workers who have not been paid for a year, the officer who takes your complaint will say it should go under the Employment Act despite the clear elements of human trafficking in the case,” she said.
Glorene was commenting on a recent report by an Indonesian daily which alleged that two Indonesian workers were locked in a school canteen in Ampang by their employers.
Republika Online identified the two Indonesians who were working at the school canteen as Siti Hartati Madwiharjo, 23, from Kebumen, Central Java, and Rosidah, 38, from Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara.
Siti Hartati started working there on Jan 31 while Rosidah had been working there since March 5, 2016.
The case came to the attention of the police when an officer from Tenaganita lodged a report on Feb 19 at the Ampang Jaya police station.
According to Glorene, Tenaganita had gone to meet the women and found that they were locked inside the canteen.
The women were apparently forced to work non-stop from 3am to 8pm.
They also did not receive the compensation promised in their contracts.
“The investigating officer said there was no element of human trafficking and that the employer would be charged under the Penal Code for wrongful confinement. But we argued based on the substitution of contract, the lock up, no rest, no place to sleep, and said these were all clear elements of human trafficking.
“It was only after we had given a statement for the second time that the police understood the case better and said the employer would be charged under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 instead.”
Glorene said Tenaganita had not wanted to talk to the media previously as the NGO did not want to interfere with the investigation.
“But since the case has already been exposed, we are verifying the facts.
“This is just one example of the cases that have come to Tenaganita. It’s a clear example of how we work with the police in terms of rescuing someone from an abusive situation, and the police have been quite good in cooperating on these cases with us.”
She said it was important that all those involved, including the police, Attorney-General’s Chambers, the judiciary as well as parliamentarians and other stakeholders receive more education and understanding on what constitutes human trafficking.
“It’s not just the actual buying and selling of people, or sex trafficking and so forth. There’s more to it.”
Keeping schools safe from trafficking
Glorene said the education ministry must also conduct inspections in schools to ensure that there are no elements of human trafficking.
She added that the case involving the two Indonesians was just one among many.
“The education ministry is responsible for making sure that the school is a safe place as Tenaganita has heard similar complaints on school grounds.
“This will be more prevalent nowadays because locals don’t want to work in schools anymore.”
Glorene said even labour inspectors should help ensure that there are no elements of human trafficking in schools.
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