IN an interview with the Nepalese newspaper, NagarikNews on 28 December 2014, the Nepali Ambassador to Malaysia, H.E. Dr. Niranjan Man Singh Basnyat, had openly criticized the working conditions for Nepalese workers here.
Following is a summary highlight of the key points of the interview:
What is the situation in Malaysia employment opportunities?
Some 85 percent have done so well. They are also sending home remittances. The remaining 15 percent have suffered.
What are the reason that cause them to suffer?
The main problem is non-compliance with to the agreement in Nepal, resulting in loss of work and wages when they arrive here. This situation cause many to leave their original employer and find work illegally. This problem is increasing.
What is the Nepalese Embassy doing to solve the problem?
The Embassy is monitoring companies that apply for Nepalese workers. If their handling of the workers agreement and salaries are not complied with, we will contact the relevant agency or company to try to resolve the dispute. In the case of known abuse or flouting of rules, we will not allow those companies to apply for more workers in future.
What is the position of Nepali women workers?
For some women workers, it is like going back to the slave era. Malaysia is promoted as an attractive destination for them to work in but when they get here, it is not so attractive; in fact it is fatal. If speaking the truth, Malaysia is hell for Nepali workers. Our Nepalese workers are also wary of the local police. For the women workers, they are even more vulnerable. Safety is no guarantee. The fear of being robbed of their dignity is real. Nepalese workers, male and female, all suffer miserable conditions
Of these problems, what poses the greatest threat?
Here, the greatest fear for women is being raped . Many Nepali women have been raped in the event. Some of them also have been arrested. In some of the rape cases, the perpetrator is yet to be identified.
What solution has been proposed by the embassy?
For companies applying for permission to bring in female Nepalese workers, we check to ensure that there is proper monitoring of the workers before we allow the companies to bring them in. We have turned down many requests from companies for female workers, up to 60% are not given permission.
The Ambassador also highlighted the problem of a high number of Nepalese now in Malaysian prisons, most of them due to working illegally while others are charged with crimes like stealing. He also pointed out that there are also many Nepalese workers who end up in detention camps and explained that the Embassy is helping them by trying to resolve the various legal formalities and pay for their air tickets home.
According to recent media reports in December 2014, Malaysia employs the highest number of Nepalese workers abroad. Recent statistics from the Department of Labour and Employment, shows that about 700,000 Nepalese are currently working in Malaysia. According to the Nepali Embassy in Malaysia, altogether 361 Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia have died due to various reasons including ailments, accidents, and suicide among others in the year 2014 alone.
Although there have been no official or diplomatic response from the Malaysian government to the allegations raised by the Nepalese Ambassador, past incidents have shown that such abrasive and un-diplomatic actions such as accusing Malaysia of treating its workers like slaves, alleging rape of its female workers and stating that the country can be fatal to their workers can seriously affect bilateral relations.
In 2013, Nepal recalled its ambassador to Qatar after she openly criticized the deplorable working conditions faced by Nepalese workers and alleging that they are routinely abused by their employers. Her comments were later highlighted by the BBC leading to the public furore.
Besides Malaysia, the Gulf Countries employ the second highest number of Nepalese workers.