08 November 2009

'Friendly visits' to check on maids' welfare

Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam announced that from Dec. 1, 2009, the Manpower Department and Home Ministry will launch a program to conduct random visits on homes to check on the maids’ welfare and working conditions as well as get feedback from the employers on the maids’ well-being. The HR Minister said that the visits would be friendly in nature, “a public relations exercise”, with no specific questions asked.

Several concerns arise, immediately.

First and foremost, security and the right to enter. The HR Minister already accedes that the officers would have no power to conduct the random visits at the employers’ premises if they are denied entry. And given Malaysia's stellar record of crime and creative imposters as well as robbers in disguise, you can be sure that many homes will refuse entry to the officers. How can the public be certain that the officers are genuine and not criminals in disguise? And dropping in unannounced - that would be extremely rude, invasive and unwelcome.

What is the exercise expected to achieve? A PR exercise? Usually PR exercises are to improve and entrench businesss relationships with customers, so using this jargon for such an exercise is inappropriate. What relationship do we have with the Manpower Department and Home Ministry - other than the fact we pay a heck of a lot of money to maid agencies; we pay an annual levy to the govt for employing our maids; we get fined when the maids decide to run away and live as an illegal in Malaysia with their new-found boyfriends (a practice the govt has done little to curb). What service do we employers receive from these govt agencies? Now, you want to enter my home to "look around" - I don't think so.

Would there be enough manpower from the departments to deploy? Would the officers involved be adequately trained in "PR"? Will they be polite and professional? Will they, err, expect "something"? Malaysians already put up with a lot of "attitude" from govt officers whose job it is to serve the public, but instead of doing so professionally and expeditiously, they make the public wait, grovel, beg and worse.

Is this whole farce an attempt to placate the Indonesian government? Please. Show some strength, some backbone, some pride. Otherwise, our government will be very busy launching "PR programs" each time another country complains about their nationals' welfare, whether they are here for work or leisure.

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