A conversation with a Malaysian blogger
It didn’t escalate into a diplomatic ‘incident’ because the Malaysian authorities promptly released the two Indian software engineers who were taken into custody after being suspected of being illegal immigrants. But it does raise some concern. Malaysia has taken a tough stand against illegal immigrants — especially unskilled ones — who find employment in the country’s construction, farm and domestic sectors. But Malaysia also has big dreams: it is actively encouraging global companies, including Indian IT firms, to set up shop in the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) area. For its service economy to take off, it needs to attract high-skilled workers. The latest episode, a milder version of a similar incident a few years ago, strikes a jarring note.
Rajan Rishyakaran, a Malaysian blogger, responds to a couple of questions I asked him:
1) How is that a country like Malaysia can allow â€˜voluntary vigilante groupsâ€™ to enter and search private property. I can understand laws like ISA etc that allow security forces to do their job, but empowering vigilantes is a different story.
Rajan: They empowered RELA to fight illegal immigration. And to fight illegal immigration, they gave various forces quite a large number of worrying liberties, with little benefit of doubt and rights given to those that run afowl with them. Like most things Malaysian, not well thought of. The lack of official organization by RELAâ€™s part actually serves to the governmentâ€™s benefit as any foul-up would be blamed on the volunteers and not policy makers.
2) Iâ€™m a great admirer of Malaysia. But do you think that it can seriously hope to attract the best talent needed to grow its service economy if it continues to treat highly qualified workers in this manner?
Rajan: Malaysia has for decades been chasing away its own talent, donâ€™t expect it in its current racist, rather xenophobic form to treat highly qualified workers in a better manner.
[Ed: This is a likely reference to the ‘bumiputra’ policy, an affirmative action system that has been in place for over three decades]