They say V Sivakumar’s remarks reflect a lack of understanding and acknowledgment of the systemic barriers faced by the community.
PETALING JAYA: Several groups advocating for the disabled community have slammed human resources minister V Sivakumar for denying the need for a specific law to deal with workplace discrimination faced by the community.
In a statement, they said the minister’s statement reflects a lack of understanding and acknowledgment of the systemic barriers faced by persons with diverse disabilities (OKUs) in job search, recruitment, and employment.
“The minister missed the opportunity to address the real issue, that the absence of reported cases of workplace discrimination against persons with diverse disabilities is actually indicative of the fact that most of us are not getting employed in the first place,” they said.
The statement was jointly issued by the Autism Inclusiveness Direction Action Group, the OKU Rights Matter Project, and 20 others, including activists and medical consultants.
At a press conference in Parliament yesterday, Sivakumar said the country’s laws on workplace discrimination cover persons with disabilities as well, and there is no need to enact specific legislation for this group.
He also said that up to September this year, the government only received eight reported cases, none of which involved discrimination faced by employees with disabilities.
He, however, did not deny that there may be cases of discrimination that went unreported and therefore, were not investigated by the ministry.
The activists said the poverty of Malaysian data obscures the true extent of issues faced by OKUs in the job search, recruitment, employment, and job retention process.
“Since Merdeka, mechanisms for reporting discrimination cannot be accessed by persons with disabilities. This fact can no longer be ignored in 21st century Malaysia,” they said.
“The Employment Act, as it stands, does not suffice in protecting and upholding the rights of persons with disabilities in the entire recruitment process, including continuous learning and career advancement.”
The groups also lamented the government’s failure to achieve its targeted 1% quota for hiring OKUs for the public sector, with the exception of the women, family and community development ministry. In 2021, only 0.35% of employees in the civil service were persons with disabilities.
They called for urgent and comprehensive amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act, including to establish a Disability Tribunal, the appointment of an independent disability commissioner, and provisions for the rights of women and girls with disabilities.