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Another big case

  • It is a big case not because of the seniority of the government officials or the amount of money involved, but the sheer number of people involved in the scandal.

Sin Chew Daily

The smuggling of illegal Bangladeshi workers into the country through KLIA by immigration officials is a very big case!

It is a big case not because of the seniority of the government officials or the amount of money involved, but the sheer number of people involved in the scandal.

Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali revealed that disciplinary actions had been taken against as many as 135 department officials, including 95 dismissals.

Deputy prime minister cum home minister Ahmad Zahid pointed out that some 600, or about 40% of all the 1,500 officials on duty at the airport had been transferred elsewhere as a "positive" step to restore the immigration department's image.

The scandal came into public light after the police busted a human-trafficking syndicate, detaining almost 50 illegal Bangladeshi workers entering the country on tourist passes, along with members of the syndicate and a driver. Shockingly, such activities had been going on for more than a year.

How is it possible that the authorities were kept in the dark over the taking of bribes by errant officials for one whole year? There must be countless of illegal migrant workers who have infiltrated into the country's job market without any entry record at all, thanks to the irresponsible immigration officials. The country's safety will come under severe threat if terrorists have managed to come in this way.

According to reports, the illegal syndicate could earn up to RM5.2 million each year by collecting between RM15,000 and RM20,000 from each of the workers, minus RM4,000 "commission" to be paid to immigration staff at KLIA. It was reported that even the Malaysian High Commission in Dhaka and officials at Dhaka international airport were "rewarded" for facilitating the passage.

Deputy IGP Noor Rashid Ibrahim revealed that there were three different parties involved in the trafficking of Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia: the Bangladeshi human trafficking syndicate responsible for the recruitment of workers, the Malaysian counterpart for smuggling the workers into this country, and a third party responsible for housing the workers here.

Obviously this whole thing has worked in a systematic and organized "one-stop" service approach. If we do not uproot all these elements, it is likely that our immigration officials will soon start taking bribes from them again.

Given the fact that this has involved so many people, why only seven people have been arrested as of mid-December? And only four of them are immigration officials while the other three are a couple and a foreign citizen?

Given the severity of this crime, disciplinary actions, transfers and dismissals alone will never be enough. The perpetrators must be charged under the anti-trafficking act.

In the US State Department's latest annual human trafficking report, Malaysia was upgrade from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2. But following the revelation of this serious offense by our immigration officials, the country's position in next year's report could be negatively affected. As such, it is utterly necessary for the government to probe the incident seriously and charge those responsible in full transparency and firmness.

As a matter of fact, this is not the first time our immigration officials have been implicated in corrupt practices. In the US 2009 human trafficking report, some Malaysian officials were accused of involving themselves in human trafficking activities and extorting Myanmar refugees. They were said to be selling the refugees to human traffickers in southern Thailand at about US$200 per head.

In 2010, a local Malay daily revealed that immigration officials in Pulau Ketam took bribes to facilitate the entry of illegal migrant workers. A certain number of responsible officials were arrested by MACC while 20 others were dismissed.

Some eight immigration officials suspected of colluding with illegal human trafficking syndicate were detained under the internal security act later the year, but were subsequently released.

In May 2016, about 100 immigration officials collaborated with illegal syndicates to sabotage the immigration department's MyIMMs system. Another 18 officials accused of helping syndicates smuggle illegal workers into the country for the past five years were arrested later the year.

Early this year, the newly appointed Perak immigration department chief was arrested for corruption during his first month of service!

It appears that the authorities are helpless in addressing the disciplinary issues involving immigration officials. What they could do was to transfer MACC deputy commissioner (prevention) Mustafar Ali to helm the immigration department in hope of fixing the problems. Unfortunately the effects have been minimal.

After the alleged involvement of MACC chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad in an extramarital affair with another woman, the commission's corruption-battling efforts have since slowed down significantly, failing to fulfill the chief commissioner's pledge of making at least one arrest or prosecution every week.

Despite the ample resources and manpower put in by the government to fight corruption, the results have been quite disappointing mainly due to a lack of determination.

With the 14th general election drawing near, hopefully the government will not just sweep the dirt under the rug.



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