PETALING JAYA: “Sudden death” has been used as a catch-all term for many migrant worker deaths over the past two years, says a senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.
Tashny Sukumaran said based on the preliminary findings in the Labour Law Reform Coalition’s (LLRC) Occupational Health and Safety Report 2022, migrant community leaders had raised concerns about the catch-all term.
“During the pandemic, 64.2% of deaths were categorised as ‘sudden deaths’ without further details,” she said at a press conference today.
Tashny said union leaders had claimed that employers often paid off the authorities to classify deaths stemming from exhaustion and other work-related maladies as “sudden death” to avoid scrutiny and accountability.
“The government must assume greater responsibility in record-keeping of migrant worker fatalities and injuries, and conduct thorough investigations into claims of sudden deaths to ensure their veracity,” she said.
She said migrant community leaders had also claimed that in some cases murders were made to appear as suicides.
“While there is no evidence for this, photographic documentation of alleged suicides allegedly carried out via implausible methods gives credence to this theory,” she said.
FMT has reached out to the police for comment on these allegations.
The other key takeaways from the report include a lack of Covid-19 protective measures for migrant workers, poor occupational safety and health standards, and increased vulnerability of female migrant workers.
To address these issues, Tashny suggested that the government develop a programme for migrant workers’ families to receive fair and just compensation for past deaths, and the implementation of a cross-border system to verify the payment of compensation to families in the country of origin.
“A Corporate Manslaughter Act should also be enacted that will treat companies as corporate persons and sentence them for criminal offences,” she said.
She pointed out that this Act was already established in countries like Australia and the UK, where upon conviction, a corporation may be ordered to remedy any breach, publicise its failures or be sentenced to jail time.