PETALING JAYA: Breaking off the nexus between enforcement authorities and human traffickers is key to end the inhuman trade, Klang MP Charles Santiago asserts.
The parliamentarian, who is vocal on the issue, said without this all-important first step, the setting up of a special court to handle human trafficking cases was useless.
“It is akin to putting the cart before the horse,” he added.
“A court on human trafficking is only effective if enforcement and education go hand in hand.
“The major problem now is with the enforcement authorities. Local media reports tell us that human traffickers are working hand in glove with enforcement officers.
“The priority right now should be to end the nexus between enforcement authorities and human traffickers,” he told FMT today.
Santiago was asked to comment on Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s proposal to set up a special court as part of the measures to get Malaysia into the top-ranked Tier 1 list of countries in the United States State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) annual report by 2020.
Zahid said this in an interview with The Star after the daily published a special report on Aug 14 on an international human trafficking ring that used private colleges to lure young Bangladeshis here with false promises of higher education and job opportunities.
Santiago said a special court on human trafficking was not needed, as the existing courts could deal with such cases.
He said there was already a law in place to deal with human trafficking cases, referring to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Atipsom) Act 2007.
“We can use that law. Why do you want to set up a special court to deal with this issue?” he asked.
Zahid was reported by The Star as saying that as of July 31, there were 277 cases reported by enforcement agencies involving 173 cases of sexual exploitation and 104 cases of forced labour.
So far, 454 arrests have been made in those cases.
In addition, since January, 966 trafficking victims have been rescued and given protection in shelter homes.
In the 2017 TiP report, Malaysia was upgraded to Tier 2 from the watchlist of Tier 2.
Meanwhile, Tenaganita director Aegile Fernandez welcomed the formation of a special court to curb the alarming issue of human trafficking in Malaysia.
“It is good to have a separate court to address and handle the problem.
“It will be a platform where enforcement, government, civil societies and NGOs can come together to fight the problem,” she said.
Referring to clashes and criticisms which NGOs and civil societies had with the government on the issue, Fernandez said that all parties should put aside their differences and work together to combat human trafficking in Malaysia.
“It is time for the government, NGOs, civil societies, authorities and the public to come together and fight this heinous crime.
“If we fail to do anything about it, it will become worse in the years to come,” she added.
Fernandez praised the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for stepping up its efforts to stamp out corruption, saying graft was closely linked to human trafficking.