Shahanaaz Habib | The Star | 20 Julai 09 7:44am
He said the anti-trafficking council set up under the ministry had been working round-the-clock since the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act was put in place.
“We are very serious. We have monthly meetings and four committees reporting to us,” he said in an interview.
Following the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2009 which downgraded Malaysia to Tier 3 on the list of worst offenders of human trafficking, Mahmood said a fifth committee would be set up under the anti-trafficking council particularly to tackle human resources and labour issues involved in trafficking.
The US TIP report said while the Government made some progress in investigating and punishing sex trafficking offences, it had not demonstrated efforts to investigate, prosecute or convict offenders of labour trafficking.
It recommended that Malaysia apply stringent criminal penalties to those involved in fraudulent labour recruitment or exploitation of forced labour and disseminate proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups such as migrant workers.
“We have 50 days to answer the allegations and we do have a special committee to answer the allegations,” he said.
The US TIP report also called for Malaysia to increase the number of prosecutions and convictions for trafficking and increase efforts to prosecute public officials involved in trafficking.
Asked why it was taking so long to prosecute traffickers particularly public officials, Mahmood said the enforcement side was looking into the cases.
Earlier this month following the TIP report and Malaysia’s downgrading, Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah, the head of the prosecution unit at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, said more than 10 immigration officers were being investigated for involvement in human trafficking.
The US TIP report also cited a case that despite there being credible sources reporting that immigration officials sold refugees for US$200 to traffickers operating along the Thai/Malaysia border – with the victims then sold for labour and commercial sexual exploitation – as well as police and immigration investigations into the matter, no official had been arrested or prosecuted.
Mahmood who was formerly the Immigration director-general believed it was impossible for immigration officials to sell the Rohingya refugees across the Thai border.
“First of all, we have no common border with Mynamar, so why bring them to the Thai border when they are not Thais? And we have a very strict standard operating procedure (SOP) when it comes to refugees.”
“So it is impossible for them to do this. And if the immigration arrested the refugees there must be a report but there was none,” he said.