[Update] Recording of the online forum is now available! Please click on link below to watch this on YouTube.
[Webinar] Online Forum on the Impact of Covid-19 on the Rights of Migrant Workers in ASEAN (18 September 2020 10am)18 September 2020
[Repost] Penang Institute Monographs – Human Rights Derogations in Southeast Asian Countries during the Covid-19 Pandemic5 September 2020
We are pleased to share a publication published by the Penang Institute. The “Human Rights Derogations in Southeast Asian Countries during the Covid-19 Pandemic” was written by Braema Mathiaparanam (Visiting Senior Research Fellow, History and Regional Studies Programme).
The full publication can be found at: https://penanginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Human-Rights-Derogations-in-Southeast-Asian-Countries-during-the-Covid-19-Pandemic.pdf
- The ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has issued a statement of concern and has reminded governments to continue observing human rights during the pandemic, and that even if some rights have to be restricted, this should not be done disproportionately.
- All members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have pre-existing forms of restriction on the freedom of expression and press freedom as well as censorship, which intensified in this pandemic.
- It is challenging to contain Covid-19 infections while ensuring that human rights are not derogated. However, the lockdown measures imposed in some countries in Southeast Asia during the containment period became opportunities to intimidate, detain and arrest opposition party members, activists and journalists.
- Countries have also taken a strict stance on fake news and disinformation, leading to many arrests across countries. Increased surveillance was also used to track threats to authority figures and the government, alongside gaining evidence on criminal activities such as drug-trafficking and money laundering.
- Certain communities were overlooked in government policies and assistance especially in terms of food and supply, economic aid and information sharing. Prisons and detention centres are overcrowded, leading to more outbreaks of Covid-19 infections.
- Countries have national, regional and international obligations and responsibilities that they have agreed to and breaches of these state obligations need to be addressed, especially when the actions taken cannot be justified even as emergency measures.
- Covid-19 will not be the last crisis, and governments can use lessons learnt from Covid-19 to improve their responses for the next crisis and take counter-measures that also adhere to human rights principles.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) released a report “In Singapore, an Already Unfair Vote Undermined by COVID-19” on Thursday, 18 June 2020.
This report documents structural flaws that potentially prevent elections from being free and fair in Singapore. On page 22 of the report, APHR also makes certain recommendations to safeguard Singaporeans’ right to a free and fair election. These include:
- Give significantly longer notice for election dates and more campaigning time to ensure an equal electoral competition and for voters to make their opinions;
- Replacing the GRC system with one that ensures better respect for the principle of “one person, one vote”;
- Immediately amend or repeal all laws that restrict the rights to freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly in Singapore; and
- Delay the general election unless additional measures are taken to: ensure all eligible voters are able to vote, including the sick and those abroad; and ensure that opposition parties are able to campaign on an equal footing with PAP.
For more information on APHR’s findings and recommendations, please visit https://aseanmp.org/2020/06/18/singapore-report-statement/ and https://aseanmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/APHR_Briefer_SingaporeElections_2020-06-16-1.pdf.
MARUAH submitted the following letter to the Forum Page of the Straits Times on 29 April 2020 in response to reports of Members of Parliament doing walkabouts in Channel News Asia. It has yet to be published.
I refer to reports of Members of Parliament doing walkabouts in Channel News Asia (MP Seah Kian Peng explains visit to market after Facebook post on ‘playing role of safe distancing ambassador’; 27th April) and The Straits Times (MP Chia Shi-Lu responds to criticism of Sunday walkabout; 14th April).
The MPs, from Marine Parade GRC and Tanjong Pagar GRC, were reported as saying that they were doing their walkabout to find out how people were coping and to encourage compliance to orders under the Circuit Breaker which was ordered on April 3rd and went into effect on April 8th. New laws – the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 and The Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 – were put into place to give clarity on measures, on enforcements and on penalties. The PAP suspended the Meet-the-People’s sessions between MPs and residents on April 13th. These measures were also introduced at various stages by the multi-task force dealing with containment of Covid-19 infections and treatment of cases. Much education on safety and prevention had also been taking place, frequently, by staff, volunteers and the media.
By the laws enacted MPs’ work are not listed as essential service providers (https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/essentialservices/). These are provided for by front liners, healthcare workers on the ground, civil service officers, counsellors and support officers from various sectors and communities. There is also a website on legal and assistance measures for affected persons, during this challenging time (https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/news/press-releases/2020-04-20-covid-19-temporary-measures-act-provisions-relating-to-temporary-reliefs-to-commence-on-20-april-2020).
As such, one is hard-pushed to appreciate this extra support from the MPs at this time, putting at risk the containment efforts and themselves in flouting the Covid-19( Temporary Measures) Act 2020. Various members of the public and migrant workers who had been caught flouting this law, have been arrested, charged and most have been fined or errant migrant workers had work passes, revoked. Others , who posted on social media their activities that showed them breaking the law, were investigated and where appropriate, charged.
It is heartening, that yesterday ( April 28th) in Malaysia, two political leaders – the Deputy Health Minister and Perak’s executive council member – were both fined RM1,000 for violating Rule 6(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases ( Measures Within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020 under Malaysia’s Movement Control Order that began on March 18th. They had said earlier, they were visiting a health clinic to check on Covid-19 preparations in the area, had adjourned for prayers and later a meal. The politicians, who apologised, and their supporters were charged as their services were not essential.
No one is baying for blood here. But there cannot be a silence. There has been no clarification or course of action from the Ministry of Law, Ministry of Home Affairs, The Attorney-General’s Office or the Prime Minister’s Office. If a wrong has been done, the law applies equally, to anyone and everyone. And if there is no wrong done, the explanations given by the MPs – as it has been with others who were arrested and charged – must either be officially accepted or rejected.
(updated with webinar recording) Labour Day Special Webinar – Migrant Workers and the Pandemic in Singapore (1 May 2020)27 April 2020
Organised by MARUAH with technical support provided by Shape SEA
Please check back this post over the next couple of days as we upload additional presentation material.
Labour Day is special to all of us, as workers.
Have a Meaningful Labour Day as we remember those who have lost jobs, our dedicated front liners, all essential workers, healthcare workers and support staff, NGOs, union leaders, the civil service officers, multi-Ministry task force, government leaders and international leaders all and you and me…
Why meaningful? These are uneasy times, also very special as it makes us understand more on the types of jobs and the workers. What are the new norms? How do we value the work of each other? The invisibility of so many workers, some whom we have overlooked.
Thank you for your interest and time.
A Meaningful Ramadan to all Muslim views and to many Migrant Workers who are Muslims too.– Braema Mathi, MARUAH Secretary
Recording of the webinar
- “The dorms are not the problem”, text version of presentation made by Mr Alex Au of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)
- “Co-creating solutions with migrant workers”, presentation slides used by Dr Satveer Kaur-Gill
- “Workers’ Housing In Context – Regulations, Reconsiderations, and Re-contextualisations”, presentation slides used by Dr Imran bin Tajudeen
- Presentation slides used by Ms Braema Mathi