News | Zuraida slams US, EU for not verifying forced labour claims

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign agencies accusing Malaysian palm oil companies of practising forced labour came under attack from plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin.

Giving her winding-up speech today on the King’s address in the Dewan Rakyat, the minister said the accusations from NGOs and activists were unfounded.

“The people who made such allegations did it after visiting a plantation and interviewing one worker,” she said.

She said she would highlight this matter when she goes to the United States to meet its Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency as well as to the European Union (EU) to dispute their rationale behind the import ban imposed on the country’s palm oil products.

“My main contention will be that there must be proper verification on these forced labour claims.

“To date, no verification has been done. They just hurl their accusations and then they will impose their sanctions,” Zuraida said, adding that it was unfair to the companies involved.

She also called for the CBP and EU to have a proper verification process and inform the companies accordingly.

“They should go down to the ground and investigate these forced labour claims. Only then should they impose sanctions.

“Then, the ministry would be prepared to improve the conditions. But that is not the case at present,” she said.

On March 8, human resources minister M Saravanan told the Dewan Rakyat that the CBP had not given any details of the offences committed but just went ahead and issued a withhold release order (WRO) on products from some Malaysian companies.

Saravanan said the labour department’s probe into the 11 indicators, as specified under the International Labour Organization (ILO) as “forced labour”, revealed no breach whatsoever.

Earlier in her speech, Zuraida said she would be heading to the US embassy tomorrow to get a new date for her delegation to travel to the country and meet with CBP to present the ministry’s arguments to dispute the WRO issued in 2020 on palm oil and products containing palm oil produced by Sime Darby Plantation (SDP) and its subsidiaries, following allegations of forced labour practices.

She said she will also ask the US to allow prisoners waiting for release to work in SDP palm oil plantations.

She said the parolee working programme was done in accordance with several Sustainable Development Goals to provide second chances to these prisoners.

She said she intended to argue against labelling these parolees as “forced labour”. – FMT

by: Dineskumar Ragu

credit photo: BeritaHarian

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