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Sivakumar: Forced labour still exists in Malaysia, but we're going all out to crack down on it

Publish date: Fri, 01 Dec 2023, 09:41 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Human Resources Minister has vowed that his ministry will crack down on issues of modern slavery, or forced labour, in the country.

Though acknowledging that forced labour continues to exist in the country, he said he did not think the number of cases was big.

"I'm not saying that there's no forced labour. I don't think the number is that big, but I am also not denying that it exists.

"Right now the Labour Department is all out on this matter where they are willing to go down, investigate and take severe actions against employers who are using forced labour."

Sivakumar said this when asked by reporters to comment on a claim by renowned United Kingdom-based activist Andrew Wallis that there may be up to 212,000 victims of modern slavery in Malaysia.

He said the terms modern slavery and forced labour was a broad term.

"Forced labour or modern slavery is not like the olden times where they have 'hamba abdi' where they used all kinds of force on them.

"Even if the employers don't pay the monthly salary of their workers or mislead would-be workers, this is also considered modern slavery."

Sivakumar warned employers not to confiscate the passports of their workers as it was against the law, though it remains common practice.

"We know that employers tend to hold on to the passports of their workers and come up with excuses that they might run away.

"However, this is against the law. It may feel normal but it isn't. So don't do that," he said.

Sivakumar had earlier attended the Federation of Malaysian Business Associations (FMBA) Deepavali celebration and networking programme.

Also present were FMBA chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abdullah, Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) chairman Datuk Kamaruzzaman Johari and several captains of industry.

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