Politics

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KUALA LUMPUR – February 11, 2015: ALMOST every time an entertainment outlet is raided, we are told of the many foreign women arrested on suspicion of being involved in vice.

 

Or since recent times, a new favourite catch-phrase: “The police managed to save these foreign women who are victims of human trafficking syndicates.”

 

One television station gives these operations prominent coverage through its weekly crime news round-up.

 

Good that diligent efforts are seen to be made to rid Malaysia of the world’s oldest profession, although despite the best of efforts, the problem never seems to die away. Maybe there are good reasons why it’s known as planet earth’s oldest profession after all.

 

The feather in the cap of any enforcement action is to have a conviction in court but when was the last time we read a report on any of these foreign women being charged, found guilty, jailed and then deported?

 

The other issue is that if indeed more and more foreign women who are victims of human trafficking syndicates are being saved by the police here, this only serves to reaffirm the negative human trafficking report on Malaysia last year by the United States State Department.

 

It must be remembered that the Malaysian government didn’t agree with the contents and issued a statement to object to it.

 

Official statements, including in Parliament, indicate that since five or six years ago, on average about 12,000 foreign women are caught each year on suspicion of being involved in immoral activities.

 

Many are arrested in a sweep-all kind of raids while having a chat over drinks at open bars, places which impose no restrictions whatsoever on their movements and allow them in so long as a door charge is paid like every other patron. This does not fit in with the profile of a human trafficking victim, whose movement is restricted and under guard and passport kept by the syndicate.

 

The clubs are also known to ask foreign patrons to produce their passports before being allowed in. A photocopy will not do.

 

From the way these women are arrested, profiling appears to be a criterion.

 

Which means that if you happen to be at a bar with a (genuine) girlfriend from central Asia or Indonesia or the Philippines or Vietnam when a raid happens, most likely you will have to wait to get her out of the lock-up days later.

 

Having read statements on these raids that were given wide media coverage, The Mole got curious and decided to find out more so that we can give our readers a complete picture.

 

Our take is that only statistics will press home the point and leave doubters with little to argue about.

With this in mind we contacted the Royal Malaysian Police via email to ask for the following:

 

  • * The number of foreign women arrested in 2012 and 2013 for vice.
  • * The number of them charged, found guilty and deported.
  • * If the statistics from both do not tally, what happened to the rest?
  • * We also referred to a raid by the Bukit Aman and KL police D7 just after midnight of January 2 to ask if the two men said to be pimps/minders for a human trafficking syndicate would be charged. (Note: The information we have is that both were in fact managers at the club who were released unconditionally after being in remand for four days, two days after they were first kept in the lock-up. During that time no interview was conducted nor any statement recorded from them.)
  • * Since the officer who led the same raid told the media that the women were victims of the syndicate, we asked where they were housed after the raid – at a welfare home or in the police lock-up, and when they will be sent back to their countries of origin.

After a few days we followed up with a phone call and were told the information was being prepared. Another few days later the same officer said his office had forwarded our queries to the Criminal Investigations Department.

 

We also emailed the Immigration Department twice to ask for the number of such women deported in the same two years, since it is the sole department responsible by law for this. The second was copied to the home affairs minister.

 

The suggestions by phone from its officers were perplexing to say the least – and amusing too.

 

“Why don’t you contact the Prisons Department?’” suggested one.

 

Another had a better idea. “Since it’s about vice, why don’t you talk to Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia)?”

 

After a few more “special” responses, we were finally told that the department had the statistics but could not reveal to us since this was a “sensitive” issue.

 

Even the Attorney-General’s Chambers was of no help, saying that it could not provide the information since some cases from one year were still before the courts the following year.

 

In all we waited three weeks and all we faced was one road block after another on something that always ends with definitive statements from the lead officer each time a nightspot is raided. And there have been many, especially in the Klang Valley. – (Information gathered by Aziz Hassan, Zaidi Azmi and Zakwan Khidzir.)     

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.