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Malaysia refutes false allegations of child labour

KUALA LUMPUR: The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry refutes false allegations of child labour or forced labour in the palm oil industry.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry responded to the United States Department of Labour Report 2014 naming Malaysia as one of the countries practising child labour and forced labour in the palm oil industry.

The government has made it clear that Malaysia does not condone any act of forced labour or child labour.

“The palm oil industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country. We view the US government’s allegations and findings seriously,” it said in a statement.

The palm oil industry is subscribing to more than 60 laws and regulations, including those pertaining to labour practices.

In reference to a six-month survey on the labour situation in Malaysian oil palm plantations, completed in June 2014, the ministry noted the palm oil industry places great importance to its human resources and has taken conscientious effort to ensure workers’ welfare is adequately taken care of.

This comprehensive study was based on International Labour Organisation guidelines. It covered workers, employers and labour contractors across 68 oil palm plantations and smallholdings. A total of 1,632 workers in Selangor, Perak, Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak were interviewed — without the presence of their employers.

This study concluded there was no systematic condition of forced labour in the industry. Only 0.4 per cent of the total respondents’ employers withheld the passports of foreign workers.

In Sabah, this study revealed some of the children of foreign workers accompanied their parents to work because of the lack of supervision at home. Even then, the children are only allowed to do so after school hours, on weekends or during school holidays. They usually assist their parents in simple tasks, such as collecting loose fruit.

The study also highlighted there is an active labour market in the oil palm plantations and foreign workers could find alternative work.

The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry said it will continue to collaborate with other ministries and agencies to strengthen labour laws and regulations in the industry. “The government monitors labour issues in the oil palm industry. We take necessary actions, should there be such issues occurring.”

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