PETALING JAYA: Criticisms over US allegations of force labour have landed human resources minister M Saravanan in a slanging match with two DAP leaders over their track record, or lack of one, in managing the issue.
Saravanan said he had implemented various measures to combat forced labour since taking over the ministry in 2020.
“I have my track record, where is yours?” he said to Perai assemblyman P Ramasamy and M Kula Segaran, MP for Ipoh Barat who is Saravanan’s predecessor as human resources minister.
In an online posting, he said Ramasamy and Kula Segaran, as politicians, should realise that a person’s track record “speaks of your service”, and added: “If you do not understand please keep your mouth shut” and not talk to achieve cheap publicity.
Saravanan had come under criticism from Ramasamy and Kula Segaran over a request he had made for the US and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to keep the ministry informed about forced labour allegations.
Kula Segaran said Saravanan’s request was laughable and a “poor attempt to cover his inability” to eradicate forced labour.
In response, Saravanan said yesterday that he had had to clean up the mess made by Kula Segaran (who was minister from 2018 to 2020) over forced labour and the minimum wage policy.
Saravanan later said he had introduced an e-wages system, made changes in quarters and living conditions for foreign workers and ratified an international protocol aimed at eradicating forced labour.
Ramasamy said that Saravanan should not take the easy way out by asking the US or ILO to investigate forced labour practices in Malaysia. He said the minister’s action showed that he lacked the administrative ability to direct his ministry to systematically investigate the issue of forced labour.
This evening, another DAP politician, Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy, came to Ramasamy’s defence, saying that Ramasamy had once done an academic thesis on unfree labour in plantations.
He urged Saravanan to have an open debate with Ramasamy on forced labour.