The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and IOM organised the inaugural National Forum on Forced Labour and Human Rights 2019 on 3rd September at JW Marriott, Kuala Lumpur. The forum had the participation of the Minister of Human Resources of Malaysia H.E. M. Kula Segaran and brought together 140 attendees to discuss current issues related to forced labour, one of the most complex human rights challenges in the global economy.
The one-day event served as a platform for policymakers, industry experts, government officials, recruitment companies and civil society groups to exchange key challenges faced by businesses in implementing measures to tackle modern slavery and forced labour risks in supply chains. Labour law reforms and recommendations, strengthening migrant worker’s rights through coordinated action, and the business case for greater transparency in global supply chains were among the topics discussed.
The Panel sessions were framed in Malaysia's current context and recent regulatory and policy developments in the country.In his keynote address, the Minister of Human Resources of Malaysia M. Kula Segaran highlighted that Malaysia stands against forced labour practices in global supply chains and the recruitment process. He noted that the Ministry has undertaken several corrective measures to address the modern-day challenges of forced labour practices in the country.
Among others, the Department of Labour conducted over 40,000 inspections between March 2018 and April 2019 and resolved 14,009 cases on labour disputes. The Labour Courts ordered employers to provide workers back-wages of more than RM34.4 million.The Malaysian Government also discussed its commitment adopted last June to develop a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAPBHR). The plan is expected to complement and build on various Government related initiatives and policies, as well as to create an enabling business environment for responsible investment in the country. SUHAKAM will work closely with the Government by providing necessary input on the development of the plan.
The event closed after fruitful discussions covering many levels of the debate at hand, from policy-making and legal frameworks, to best practices in ethical recruitment.
Over half of the world’s 21 million victims of human trafficking and slavery are found in the Asia-Pacific region. The majority are linked to the formal economy and can be found working in global supply chains. Many are migrant workers, who leave their homes in search of better employment opportunities in large cities, industrial zones and across their countries' borders. While migrant workers are often in demand to fill critical labour gaps and shortages, they are more vulnerable to exploitation and less likely to be able to protect themselves against unfair labour practices.
As of 2014, 15% of Malaysia’s employed population were labour migrants, mainly from Indonesia, Nepal and Bangladesh. Migrant workers make up 19% of those employed in the construction sector, 37% of the total labour force in manufacturing, 15% in the plantation sector, and 9% of all workers in the agriculture sector. Recognizing that Malaysian businesses largely depend on intermediaries to engage foreign workers, the Malaysian Government has now initiated a review of current legislation to move towards more safe, orderly and regular migration into the country. Under its CREST initiative, IOM works collaboratively with companies, civil society and government partners to promote sustainable solutions for ethical recruitment and fair labour.
The forum will feature expert speakers from the Government, IOM, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), and private sector stakeholders. The programme includes plenary sessions and panel discussions.
The event intends to bring together government partners, private sector stakeholders as well as civil society organisations to address issues related to forced labour. It aims to to provide a space for exchange on key challenges faced by businesses in implementing measures to tackle modern slavery and forced labour risks in supply chains. This Forum will also be an opportunity for the sharing of best practices put in place by several companies working with complex supply chains. The discussion will be framed in Malaysia's current context and recent labour migration-related regulatory and policy developments in the country.
Attendees will learn about national standards, international trends and expectations, market requirements, and human rights-related obligations for companies, particularly concerning the ethical recruitment and employment of migrant workers. The event will also be an opportunity for participants to interact with experts and industry peers to exchange on measures businesses can take to improve the lives of millions of migrant workers contributing to Malaysia-based supply chains. The event will allow participants to:
• Strengthen collaboration between companies, experts, advocates and policy makers to facilitate further dialogue for transformation.
• Share good practices, challenges and ideas on recommended next steps for business and non-business stakeholders, such as government, CSOs, researchers to make positive change.
Government officials, partners, prominent CSOs involved in migrant workers’ rights, trade union representatives. C-level and managers of companies employing or involved in recruiting foreign workers, as well as business representatives related to sustainability functions and/or company policy-making.
08:45 - 09:15
Arrival of participants & registration
09:15 - 09:45
Datuk Godfrey Gregory Joitol, Vice-Chairman | Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Kendra Rinas, Head of Office IOM Malaysia
09:45 - 10:45
An overview on Business and Human Rights & the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights:
Prof Dato’ Dr Aishah Bidin, Past Commissioner | Suhakam (2013-2019); Professor | Faculty of Law, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
10:45 - 11:00
11:05 - 12:20
Panel 1: Moving the Needle on Modern Slavery: Addressing Forced Labour in Recruitment & Global Supply Chains
Manny Gomez, Managing Director | Staffhouse International Resources
Rose Leong, Senior Operations Manager | Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd
Tara Dermott, Head of Office | IOM Hong Kong SAR
Moderator: Dr Andika Ab. Wahab, Fellow | Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS)
12:20 - 13:20
13:20 - 14:20
Panel 2: Charting the Future: Strengthening Migrant Workers’ Rights through Coordinated Action
Aegile Fernandez, Director | Tenaganita
Adrian Pereira, Executive Director | North South Initiative
Charles Santiago, Member | Parliament for Klang; Chairperson | ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
Moderator: Andrew Khoo, Co-Chair | Constitutional Law Committee, Bar Council
14:30 - 15:20
Keynote address &
YB M. Kulasegaran, Minister | Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia
15:20 - 16:30
Panel 3: The New Legal Roadmap: Reforms & Recommendations of Labour Law in Malaysia
Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai, Commissioner of SUHAKAM
Kunaseelan Nadarajah,Special Functions Officer to the Minister | Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia
Dato Sri M. Ramachelvam,
Moderator: Lim Wei Jiet, Secretary-General | National Human Rights Society (HAKAM); Deputy Chair | Bar Council, Constitutional Law Committee
YB M. KulasegaranMinister | Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia
The fourth-term Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran is a well-known and experienced lawyer in the country and was appointed Human Resource Minister in the new Cabinet led by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He is the vice-chairman of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and vice-president of the Pakatan Harapan coalition. After completing his BA (Hons) Barrister at Law from Lincoln’s Inn, London, he established Kula & Associates, which started operating on May 1, 1985. He was called to the English Bar in July 1982 by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. He was admitted and enrolled as an advocate and solicitor of the High Court in Malaya in 1983.
Datuk Godfrey Gregory JoitolVice-Chairman | Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Datuk Godfrey joined the Sabah Civil Service in 1978 and retired as Deputy State Secretary (Development) in 2011. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English from the University of Malaya and a Master of Science (Administrative Science and Development Problems) from the University of York, United Kingdom. In his previous duties, he worked in firelds such as children's rights and the righs of persons with disabilities, the elderly, as well as consumers' rights.
Kendra RinasHead of Office | International Organization for Migration Malaysia
Kendra Rinas is the Head of Office representing the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia since May 2018. Her service includes seven years in IOM with postings as Head of Office, Damak, Nepal, and Head of Refugee Resettlement for South Asia, also based in Nepal. Prior to joining IOM she was with the Resettlement Support Center, Africa for six years based in Nairobi, Kenya as Operations Coordinator; in N’djamena, Chad as Country Coordinator; and in Accra, Ghana as Processing Supervisor. Ms. Rinas holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University, School of Business, CT, U.S.A.; and a B.A.in Political Science and Religion from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, U.S.A.
Prof Dato’ Dr Aishah BidinProfessor | Faculty of Law, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Prof Dato’ Dr Aishah Bidin is a Professor of Corporate and Insolvency Law and former Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM). She is also a former Dean of the Faculty of Law of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) (2009-2014), and previously its Deputy Dean (Academic, Research and International Relations) (2000-2006). She holds an LLB (Hons) from University of Malaya, a Masters in Law (LLM) from the University of Kent, and a PhD degree in Law from University of London, United Kingdom.
Manny GomezManaging Director | Staffhouse International Resources
Manny Gomez is no stranger to regional/international forums on Labour Migration and Ethical Recruitment. He has participated on different occasions as speaker, panelist and resource person for conferences and meetings of the ILO and IOM, among others. A few years after he earned his degree in Political Science from De La Salle University Manila, Manny Gomez co-founded Staffhouse International Resources, a leading firm in the Philippines recruitment industry.
Rose LeongSenior Operations Manager | Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd
Rose Leong has more than 40 years of experience, with 30 years in a HR capacity in manufacturing companies (3 of which are listed in the Bursa Malaysia). She is currently the Senior Operations Manager of Magnificent Emblem Sdn.Bhd, a foreign worker recruitment and consultancy firm that services many RBA compliant companies. She has been with the company for 13 years, based in Penang.
Tara DermottHead of Office | IOM Hong Kong SAR
Tara leads a dynamic team in Hong Kong SAR committed to supporting diverse migrant populations. Current programming includes promoting ethical recruitment of migrant domestic workers, access to justice for victims of human trafficking and private sectors engagement. Tara has 14 years of experience in the migration and counter-trafficking sectors. Tara has an M.A. in Sustainable International Development from the Heller School of Social Policy & Management at Brandeis University.
Dr Andika Ab. WahabFellow | Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS)
DAndika Ab.Wahab holds a PhD in Anthropology and International Relations from The National University of Malaysia (UKM), and currently working as a Research Fellow with the Institute of Malaysian & International Studies (IKMAS), UKM. He is also a member of the expert team of the Malaysia’s Business and Human Rights Initiative, previously served as a Senior Researcher for the Malaysia’s Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).
Aegile FernandezDirector | Tenaganita
Aegile Fernandez began doing social work as a 16-year-old, visiting the sick in the hospital in Sungai Petani, Kedah. She went on to work with prisoners, sex workers, drug addicts, HIV/AIDS patients, domestic abuse victims, refugees, human trafficking victims and abused children before becoming Director at the migrant and workers' rights NGO Tenaganita, founded by her late sister Irene.
Adrian PereiraExecutive Director | North South Initiative
Adrian Pereira is the Executive Director of North South Initiative (NSI), a Human Rights organisation based in Malaysia which he co-founded. NSI works with grassroots; mainly migrants, refugees farmers, youths and people living in conflict zones. Born in Malaysia, he witnessed the injustice faced by marginalized and poor communities at a very young age and ever since was inspired to uphold their voices and champion their rights together. He owes the inspiration to his parents who helped him step out of his comfort zone and reach out to those who are oppressed. He pursued a degree in Computer Engineering and joined the social justice movement during his university days which gave him more insights into the structures that cause inequality and violence.
Charles SantiagoChairperson | ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
Charles Santiago is a politician and a member of Parliament for the Klang constituency in Selangor, Malaysia. He is a member of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) party in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. Prior to his election, Santiago was an economist and worked for non-governmental organisations such as the Coalition Against Water Privatisation and Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation Malaysia. Santiago was re-elected to Parliament for Klang constituency in the consecutive 2013 and 2018 general elections. Santiago is also Chairman of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
Andrew KhooCo-Chair | Constitutional Law Committee, Bar Council
Andrew Khoo graduated from King's College London in law (LLB) and history and philosophy of religion (AKC) and, after working on a relief and rehabilitation programme for internally displaced persons in northern Uganda, was called to the Bar of England and Wales in November 1991 and the Bar of the High Court of Malaya in Malaysia in May 1995. He has been in active legal practice in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 24 years. In addition, he is currently serving his 11th year as an elected member of Bar Council Malaysia, the regulatory and representative body for lawyers in peninsula Malaysia, and is Co-Chair of the Constitutional Law Committee and Trade in Legal Services Committee. He is also Co-Deputy Chair of the Legal Profession Committee
Dato’ Mah Weng KwaiCommissioner | The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai was appointed as a Judicial Commissioner of the High Court of Malaya and then a Judge of the High Court of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2012 and retired from the judiciary in 2015. Throughout his career, he held a variety of key positions and membership in various professional organizations including as the President of the Malaysia Bar and LAWASIA (The Law Association for Asia and the Pacific); Member of Malaysian Law Reform Committee under the Prime Minister’s Department; and Member of the Organizing Committee of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges.He was appointed as a Commissioner of SUHAKAM in June 2016 for the term 2016-2019.
Kunaseelan NadarajahSpecial Functions Officer to the Minister | Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia
Kunaseelan Nadarajah obtained his Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons) from the University of London in 1993. As a special functions officer to the minister, his duties among others include overseeing the amendment to the Labour laws enforced by the Ministry, engagement with stakeholders and other agencies related to the amendments. He has experience working at the Labour Department of Peninsular Malaysia as the head of the enforcement unit. Duties included conducting enforcement on the Employment Laws, Anti Trafficking and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants and I Visit Policy (combination of three departments in the Ministry).
Dato Sri M. RamachelvamCo-Chair | Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee, Bar Council
Dato Sri M. Ramachelvam read law at the University of Malaya and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons) in 1984. He is presently a partner of Messrs Rama-Rozi & Associates. He serves as a Co-Chairperson of the Migrants, Refugee & Immigrations Affairs Committee and the Task Force on the Independent Police Complaints & Misconducts Commission of the Bar Council of Malaysia. He is a founding member of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) and presently serves as the Deputy President of HAKAM.
Lim Wei JietSecretary-General | National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
Lim Wei Jiet is the Deputy Chairperson of the Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee, the Secretary-General of the National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (HAKAM), Malaysia's National Representative to the International Bar Association's (IBA) Young Lawyers Committee & a member of the National Youth Consultative Council. Wei Jiet's maintains a portfolio of constitutional & administrative law cases. He is the author of several publications on this subject.