On Malaysia’s mistaken detention of Indian software engineers

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 ‘voluntary vigilante groups’ 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 RELA’s part actually serves to the government’s benefit as any foul-up would be blamed on the volunteers and not policy makers.

2) I’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, don’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]

7 thoughts on “On Malaysia’s mistaken detention of Indian software engineers”

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  2. There is a flip side too: why do only certain people get arrested? Because they ask for it.

    I remember the last time a mass arrest happened and received wide coverage. What was not disclosed was that local employment companies bring in a large number of people from especially the sub-continent in business visas and leave them to search for jobs in Malaysia. Some of them misbehaved: eve-teasing and such things. I believe someone (most likely an Indian reported this to the police) which prompted rounding-up of Indians, duh! (and many innocent).

    Anyone in Brickfields (where the arrests were done the first time) would know that.

  3. For a related account of the Bumiputra (sic) policy, read Naipaul’s “Among the Believers.” You’ll know where racism comes from…

  4. Malaysian police arrest two Americans suspected of promoting Christianity

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 (AFP) – Malaysian police arrested two Americans for allegedly distributing Christian religious pamphlets to Muslims, police said Wednesday.

  5. I agree with Chetan…if you just happen to go to Briekfields, then you would know what this ‘Indian Software Engineers’ are really made of. From throwing rubbish from their 20 story condos to drinking to disturbing girls to stealing. If there are real experts there who wants to make a living here, then get the job from a good source. Dont come here are wander for jobs, because there arent any. ANd i still wonder why they want to come here since there is alot of opportunities in the Western countries. or maybe they arent really the skilled workers they claim they are in the first place. I greatly admire indian workers, I have alot of friend among them, but dont build castles in the sky and expect us to pray for you. And dont think were having a great time here either, theyre not kind to Malaysian Indians here either. Were the unofficial outlaws in our own country. Life is sad, but then again I believe Indians face problems in every country they go too. Maybe we realized globalization faster, sooner than any other race, its just that they world is not ready for us.

    And one advice for anymore software engineers who might get caught for doing ‘nothing’. Cooperate, show they your passports and your credentials, your work permits and stuff. If you dont have any, wish yourself not alive.

    Make love not war.


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