PETALING JAYA: A former Court of Appeal judge has urged the government to declassify an independent committee’s report containing recommendations on the streamlining of policies on foreign workers.
Hishamuddin Yunus, who chaired the Special Committee on Foreign Worker Management, told FMT recent reports of the spread of Covid-19 among foreigners had increased the relevance of the recommendations.
The health ministry has attributed the infections to foreign workers’ living conditions.
Hishamuddin’s committee was formed in August 2018 and it submitted its report to the government in February last year.
The report has been classified under the Official Secrets Act, and Hishamuddin said the committee members were disappointed by this.
“No reasons were given either,” he added.
Hishamuddin, who is also a Suhakam commissioner, said the release of the report would be consonant with the principle of transparency and good governance and would remove suspicions that the government had something to hide.
Before the report was submitted, the press was told that it would include recommendations on the salaries and protection of foreign workers as well as suggestions of ways to prevent the disruption of workflow.
Hishamuddin said the final report also contained observations on the living conditions of foreign workers.
It urged the government to pass a law to ensure decent accommodation, he added.
Last year, the Pakatan Harapan government denied allegations that its cabinet of ministers was opposed to making the report public, saying no such decision had been made.
Adrian Pereira, who heads the human rights group North-South Initiative, described the withholding of the report from public scrutiny as a major setback to labour reforms.
He told FMT the hundreds of migrants and refugees whom the committee consulted would be interested in the report.
He said the discovery of Covid-19 cases among migrant workers had made the release of the report especially pertinent.
Pereira also asked the government to disclose how much money it spent on the special committee.
He estimated the sum to be huge, noting that town hall sessions were held in major towns and cities nationwide.
“It definitely must have cost a bomb,” he said.
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