Economy

Malaysian Latex Gloves For Nurses In Canada, Workers' Rights In COVID Times

Revelations of slavery-like conditions for migrant workers in Malaysia manufacturing hospital supplies says much about how worker exploitation has extends across the supply chain through the pandemic.

British labor rights activist Andy Hall had been working for years to defend migrant workers rights in Asia, particularly in Thailand and Myanmar. And when the COVID-19 crisis put unprecedented pressure on the global supply chain, he knew it was a situation ripe for exploitation.

In particular, the pandemic was creating unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment, with governments around the world rushing to secure millions of masks, gowns and gloves which would sometimes be sold to the highest bidder.

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The Indian Diaspora's Lack Of Empathy For COVID Horror Back Home

From Malaysia, where she now lives, writer Mythily Nair laments the cold attitutes of some fellow diaspora members toward the catastrophic second wave washing over India right now.

-Essay-

KUALA LUMPUR — As I surf through international news channels, very little has captivated global attention like India's COVID-19 crisis. Calling it "a catastrophe" and "human rights crisis," anchors from across the world try to draw links and connections as to how a tragedy of this scale unfolded. Foreign journalists are flocking to India to report from hospitals and cremation grounds to report the grim reality at hand.

As the images and reports continue to pour in, our leaders are complaining that such news paints a negative image of India that is detrimental to us being seen as a global powerhouse. But why is the truth detrimental? Is it because it's a glaring reminder of the abject failure of the administrative body?

I was born in India but grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My family and I still live in Kuala Lumpur. I moved back to India for my undergraduate studies, and over the last three years, I've made friends like family, and had a lifetime's worth of kaleidoscopic experiences that cannot be reduced to just a few words.

I find myself so dumbfounded at the lack of empathy and the hypocrisy.

After a while, I can't watch the news any more. I think of the frantic calls from college friends — some worried and some inconsolable — as they struggled to get oxygen for their parents and plasma for their siblings. As I sit in quarantine in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, waiting to test negative (for the third time), my friends are running around cities like Delhi and Bangalore, looking for hospital beds.

Unlike friends and family back home, I have the luxury of switching my TV off and escaping what is happening in India. My identity as a Non Residential Indian (NRI) gives me the privilege of "switching off" what is reality for half of my identity, and pretending like everything is fine even as my heart bleeds for home.

With the TV off, I scroll through Instagram and see friends in India requesting plasma right next to videos of Corgis doing tricks, and Indian-origin influencers abroad rallying for donations to be sent home to various foundations while Indian celebrities continue to post mindless vacation photos.

I speak to friends here and around the world with fractured identities like mine — people from India but who grew up abroad — and tell them about how I am struggling to come to terms with myself. How that while I'm grateful for all that I have, I wish I could do more to help.

Mass cremations in Guwahati, India, on May 19 — Photo: Dasarath Deka/ZUMA

Not infrequently do I get responses like: "But they had it coming, the dirty people they are."

I've heard from adults that I respect, expatriates in high-profile roles across South East Asia and further, active members of their local Bharat Clubs (an NRI/Indian origin community group that meet for major festivals) who disdainfully say that "at the risk of sounding too harsh, this is nature's way of cleansing" and that "the only sad part is that there is a lot of collateral."

I try my best to argue only to be rebuked. When I say the government has failed its citizens, I'm told, "No, they're trying their best but it's just gotten out of hand."

I find myself so dumbfounded at the lack of empathy and the hypocrisy at a time when my news feeds show the reality of what is taking place in India.

The "Brown Diaspora" that stood up for #BlackLivesMatter last June, where are you now?

This is my collective response to those who see a major humanitarian crisis as just another way to push a Darwinian evolutionary lens — where countries with poorer infrastructure and less resources seemingly deserve to die; amputated like a diseased limb from the wealthier image we have of the 21st century:

When India and Indian culture serves to your needs — of having cultural tokenism, of chai tea, Yoga and turmeric — you relied upon your heritage and cultural knowledge of being South Asian to propel yourself further in those conversations. But now, as your nation of origin burns, you disassociate for your own benefit, because you know your hyphenated identity will no longer serve you any brownie points amongst members of your newly upwardly-mobile social strata.

What have you gained by trying to hide the truth of systemic failures in India, I ask? What have you done to make things better for those living through the nightmare back home?

The "Brown Diaspora" that stood up for #BlackLivesMatter last June, where are you now? How did your call for activism arise when inequalities arose in developed nations, but not when those same developed nations created inequalities in access to vaccinations on their own?

Maybe you no longer have any connection to your country of origin. For the longest time, I didn't either. I actively tried to disassociate myself from my hyphenated identity in a quest to be seen as better than by an authority that knew nothing about the cultural nuances and intricacies of my heritage.

Reclaim your heritage, one step at a time. If ever you hear someone say that this was meant to happen, read up and point out the facts. Rally up other members in your community, donate whatever you can to any authentic sources who are working on the ground to help those in need.

I'm not asking for much. I'm asking you to refrain from being insensitive, and to help the world heal. Because without India doing better, the world will never fully recover from COVID-19 to even be able to start limping back to some semblance of normalcy.

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In Malaysia, Asylum Seekers And Trauma As Currency

Refugees in Malaysia explain how the resettlement process creates a perverse incentive to tailor their past experiences.

KUALA LUMPUR — Muddasir Ahmed Rajput didn't know what to expect from his asylum interview with the United Nations in Kuala Lumpur. He worried he might have to take a lie detector test. He thought there might be a hidden camera in the room. When the UN resettlement officer asked why he left Pakistan, Rajput answered in the simplest way he could: "I told her the problem: There's no future there."

Rajput, 21, left his home in the Pakistani province of Punjab and requested asylum in Malaysia in 2013. He is part of the Ahmadiyya sect, a Sunni minority group deemed non-Muslim by Pakistani law. Members of the sect can be punished for blasphemy under the country's penal code for practicing their religion in public.

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Kelantan, A Laboratory For Sharia Law In Malaysia

KOTA BHARU On Sultan Zaineb street, congregants leave the mosque one by one in Kota Bharu, the capital of the rural Kelantan state, in northeastern Malaysia. After Friday prayers, the loudspeakers are put on standby.

Some men wearing the traditional kufi turban cross a square at the heart of which stands a white arrow-shaped building. Padang Merdeka, an open-sky memorial that commemorates the place where the country's independence was declared in 1957, now faces a grim future.

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Sources
Jillian Deutsch

Hijabs, From Main Street To Malaysian Shampoo

The hijab still makes Western societies squirm. Passing someone wearing the Islamic headscarf is too often seen as proof that Muslim women are "docile, oppressed, silenced," notes Hend Amry, a practicing Muslim and activist who writes about why she wears a hijab.

But, for better or worse, things are changing.

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blog

Leonardo DiCaprio Questioned In Wolf Of Wall Street Money Scandal

Oscar-winning Hollywood hunk Leonardo DiCaprio pulled out of hosting a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last week, saying there was a problem with the timing.

Well, kind of. The FBI needed to question DiCaprio about his apparent links to two suspects accused of embezzling a sovereign fund in Malaysia, Swiss newspaper Le Temps reports.

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Geopolitics
Giacomo Tognini

Malaysia News, 5 Stories Making Headlines At Home

This week we shine the spotlight on Malaysia:

CURRENCY AND CARS

While other emerging-market currencies in Asia are halting their slide, the Malaysian ringgit is continuing its precipitous fall, Malaysian financial newspaper the Edge reports.

The Malaysian currency has experienced a steady depreciation for months against the U.S. dollar. Despite a minor rally recently, it's now trading at 4.18 ringgit for $1, up from 3.5 in February of this year.

The Edge writes that this fall is particularly damaging for the country's automobile industry, as domestic car producers must compete with foreign brands. Several other currencies in emerging markets have fallen in value this year, including those of Indonesia, Brazil, Russia and Vietnam, but have mostly recovered.

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blog

Malaysia Steps Up, California Emergency, Dave's Farewell

ANCIENT SYRIAN CITY FALLS TO ISIS

After days of fighting, “Palmyra’s fate is now in the hands of IS,” the Lebanese newspaper L’Orient Le Jour writes on Thursday’s front page. Coalition forces thought a few days ago that they had managed to beat back the ISIS terror group from the ancient Syrian city, but the jihadists came back stronger than before. Government and rebel forces fled the city, where ISIS is now in control. Read more in our Extra! feature.

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blog

Extra! 8,000 Migrants Stranded At Sea In Southeast Asia

"Out at sea with nowhere to go," reads the Friday front-page headline in Malaysian daily The Star, alongside a photo of Rohingya migrants waiting on a boat adrift off the coast of Thailand.

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LA STAMPA
Gianluca Paolucci

Why Malaysia's Palm Oil Boom May Be Bad News For Orangutans

KUCHING — For eight years now, Irwan and his buffalo have worked through the neat rows of palm trees at the United Plantation in Teluk Intan, a town three hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur that overlooks the Straits of Malacca. For just less than 450 euros a month, he collects large clusters of oil-rich berries and carts them over to be processed.

From there, after the processing and refining, the bright red oil goes on to become a key ingredient of many everyday products in the West, China and India — from cookies and soaps to beauty creams, ice cream, margarine, noodles, and many ready meals. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that approximately half the products sold in a regular European supermarket contain palm oil. Now, as last month's new EU directive imposes, all labels must specify the type of fat used in place of the previously generic "vegetable oils and fats."

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blog

Cuteness And Islamic Backlash At Malaysian 'I Want To Touch A Dog' Event

A somewhat unusual event was held over the weekend in a park in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, called "I want to touch a dog." The idea was organized through Facebook in order to introduce Muslims to dogs, and more than 800 people attended, Asia One reports.

Many came to see and be near the dogs, and organizers encouraged a dress code to denote the attendees' interest: yellow for those who wanted to pet a dog, orange for those who just wanted to watch and red for dog owners.

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Sources
Faidzal Mohtar

In Malaysia, Creative Ways to Duck Government Censorship

Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, better known as Zunar, is a cartoonist who has been drawing editorial and political cartoons for over 20 years. His cartoons cover a range of issues, but are known for being critical of the government.

“Most of the mainstream media neglect or black out the important issues, just focusing on petty or sensational issues. They want to distract people’s minds from focusing on the fundamental issues. Through my cartoons I want to highlight the important issues in Malaysia, like corruption; there are so many cases of corruption that have been blacked out by mainstream media.”

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Sources
Faidzal Mohtar Malaysiakini

Condo Development Threatens Historic Malaysian Village

KAMPUNG CHETTI — The Malaysian states of Penang and Malacca are home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but now a 600-year-old village in Malacca is under threat from a high-rise development and highway project.

About 300 people live here in Kampung Chetti, the heart of the Chettis community whose heritage can be traced back to South India. Their ancestors came here 600 years ago as traders, and since then they have intermarried with the locals and have created a strong bond with the other Malaysian races, says resident SK Pillay.

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