Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has called for a criminal investigation into army personnel caught on video assaulting migrant workers, with action to be taken against them if they are found guilty of the offence.
LFL coordinator Zaid Malek said “the culture of impunity” among enforcement authorities was a “serious problem” that had become more apparent during the movement control order (MCO) period.
“The unclear SOPs have led to abuse of power by enforcement authorities who have arbitrarily and inconsistently enforced the rules and regulations imposed during the MCO.
“The unlawful assault and mistreatment of migrant workers is yet another example of this abuse,” he said.
Adding that the “real culprits” behind the increase in Covid-19 infections are “certain large money-making corporations that have failed to comply with the law at the expense of migrants workers health and well-being”, he said migrant workers are the victims and should not be vilified.
MalaysiaNow reported earlier this week that video clips had emerged showing men in uniform employing brutal and inhumane tactics on migrant workers believed to be under quarantine for Covid-19.
Andy Hall, a migrant worker rights activist based in Nepal who has knowledge about the clips, told MalaysiaNow that the incidents happened in Meru, Klang.
Armed Forces chief Affendi Buang later said an investigation into the clips is ongoing, and that preliminary action had already been taken.
He also said the personnel in question had acted “a little beyond bounds”.
“I know this member acted a little beyond bounds and I apologise about the matter.
“But at the same time, members of the Armed Forces do not behave as they please. If they did, surely many cases of assault would have taken place,” he said.
In a statement, Zaid said it was regrettable that the Armed Forces had chosen to “trivialise” alleged acts of assault by its personnel.
“Assault is not merely a disciplinary issue; it is a crime under the law, and should have been condemned in an unqualified manner. Criminal probes must be instituted against said personnel.”
Adding that the matter was taken seriously only after the videos surfaced online, he said the authorities should be aware that “under no circumstances can they inflict any physical harm to anyone even if they are in breach of MCO regulations”.
“Their duty is and has always been to safeguard the people, including migrants and refugees, from further spread of Covid-19 and they must execute their duties within the confines of the law.”