UNBALANCED: To say Malaysia is unsafe for foreign wokers is going overboard
READING Irene Fernandez's recent harsh statements on the alleged abuse and mistreatment of foreign workers in Malaysia brings to mind two issues, mainly is it fair for the Tenaganita executive director to draw a blanket categorisation and should she have washed dirty linen in public?
We have no wish to ridicule or run down Fernandez, but simply to debate the merits of her statement.
Is Malaysia truly unsafe for migrant workers and are all such workers constantly abused and tortured here?
From an objective point of view, the statements made by Fernandez could be concluded as saying that Malaysians are nothing more than a bunch of crazed lunatics, running around with hot irons and machetes waiting to burn and butcher any foreign worker that lands on our shores.
This is surely not the scenario as while we admit there are rotten apples which need to be eliminated, there are many other Malaysians who are caring, loving and kind, and have taken and accepted foreign maids and workers as part and parcel of their own families.
Even our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has openly declared that there are certain things which need to be changed and has promised to implement these changes.
There are always two sides to a story and in this case, it is evident that Fernandez has stubbornly decided to stick to only one side -- perhaps the side that suits her the most.
To come out and harshly state that Malaysia as a whole is unsafe for foreign workers is going overboard as almost all of us have witnessed foreigners living comfortably among us, with many of them enjoying a very good quality of life.
In fact, till today, I don't think any of us has ever seen a foreigner dying of starvation on the streets.
Malaysians are not a cruel lot and most of us will never, even in our darkest moments think of harming another human being.
Perhaps we could conclude that this negative perception was created only because negative cases were highlighted while the thousands with fairy tale endings simply went overlooked.
I personally know of friends and colleagues who have kept their foreign maids for years and have even travelled to Indonesia to witness their marriages, attend their childrens' birthdays and such.
Some of these maids have become so attached to the families they work for that they do not even want to go back to their own families.
While there may be some cause for concern in Fernandez's fears and worries, I don't think it is widespread as her statements make it out to be.
Also, there are avenues available here for one to voice certain grievances.
The voice of the people has come a long way from what it was and it cannot be denied that today, transparency and accountability have progressed by leaps and bounds.
Considering this, I am of the opinion that Fernandez should not have added fuel to the fire by making such statements while on Indonesian soil.
There was no need for her to hit out at Malaysia from across the border.
Arguments that there are no avenues here for her to highlight these issues will surely hold no water as there are now many online portals and even publications which would gladly carry her comments.
Everyone knows there is already unnecessary tension between the two neighbouring countries and as the executive director of Tenaganita, there was no need for her to worsen this.
There are already ongoing talks between the two governments for a bilateral agreement which will spell out clearly the rights of foreign workers.
This shows that there are ways and means to tackle this issue without blowing it out of proportion in the media.
Perhaps what would be best for Fernandez and other interested parties at this point is to highlight their views and opinions on the subject matter to the rightful people.
"It will be unpatriotic if I remain silent and not put right what is wrong" she was quoted as having said, but I reiterate my thoughts that highlighting these issues in the foreign media is by no means putting right what she perceives as being wrong.
As Malaysians and a caring nation, we appreciate your concern for fellow human beings, but at the same time, we do not appreciate being categorised as being part of an "unsafe" nation.
Over the years, thousands of foreigners have found employment here and have successfully supported their families back home.
We need to ask ourselves this. If Malaysia is so unsafe, then why do thousands of migrant workers flock to this country every year in search of better opportunities.
What Fernandez should do now is perhaps spend time with the right authorities or people and find ways to play an effective role in helping to better the situation.
Shooting off insults and hurling accusations in the media has never resolved anything.