by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling on Saturday, May 9, 1981:
DAP calls for a special government probe team to be sent to investigate into the working conditions of Malaysian workers in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries o protect Malaysian workers from exploitation, oppression and even threats to their very personal safety
Although last month, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Manpower, Datu K. Pathmanaban, gave a assurance to the Senate that Malaysian workers in the Middle East were working under satisfactory conditions, the revelations of working conditions of Malaysians in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries following the tragic and mysterious death of former Saudi Arabian airlines air hostess, Chathrina Tan Suan Hong, 21, has shown that either Datuk Pathmanaban was deliberately misleading Parliament or he did not know what he was talking about.
The statement today by Datuk Pathmanaban that Malaysians going overseas to work should register with the Malaysian missions in the foreign countries concerned so that contacts could be maintained by the Malaysian mission again showed how ignorant the Deputy Minister was about the conditions under which Malaysian workers abroad had to work.
For instance, a Malaysian who had worked as a construction worker in Saudi Arabia, revealed how working in Saudi Arabia was ‘exploitation all the way – right from the time you are offered the job by the local agent.”
He narrated how the passports of workers were detained by the local agent when offered appointment until departure at Subang airport, and on arrival at Jeddah, their passports were taken from them again until time to send them back.
The workers were then taken to their worksite wherever it was in Saudi Arabia and they were not allowed to leave the worksite at all.
Clearly, under such circumstances, it was impossible for Malaysian workers to heed Datuk Pathmanaban’s advice to register with the Malaysian missions – especially as their passports had been taken away from them.
The gruesome tale of exploitation, of Malaysian workers, despite a very attract salary, and of rape, disappearance of foreign women without a trace when shopping alone or even crossing the street at night in Saudi Arabia should alert the Malaysian Ministry of Labour to its responsibility to protect the welfare of Malaysian workers abroad.
There have been too many complaints about the exploitative conditions under which Malaysian workers had to work in the Middle East, where they became virtually at the mercy of their employers without any means of protecting their rights and interests, and the time has come for positive action to be taken by the Malaysian Government. The DAP calls on the Malaysian government to send a special probe team to Saudi Arabia and Middle East to investigate into the actual conditions of Malaysian workers there to protect them from exploitation and oppression, and even more important, to protect their lives, human dignity and decency.