Timorese (enough is enough) form grouping
Published on: Tuesday, March 07, 2017
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Kota Kinabalu: Hundreds of Timorese migrant workers in the State have decided to form an association to highlight exploitation and labour rights violations by employers.Called the "Kerukunan Keluarga Besar Nusa Tenggara (Kesanusara), the non-legal body formed last June is the biggest to date in terms of membership of Timorese migrant workers in Sabah. Its founder Yeremias Koten said it has more than 400 members most of whom work in plantations and other sectors in Beaufort, Tamparuli, Tenom and Kinarut.

"We expect more will join us when word gets around about the formation. It's important that we are united because there have been too many issues faced by us concerning labour rights violations," he said, after paying a courtesy call on Indonesian Consul-General Monday to formally inform about the association and its objectives.

He said the majority of members work in palm oil plantations across the State, particularly in the East Coast.

He lamented that many of them have been suffering in silence for too long. "Unpaid and unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, poor living conditions and housing and employers refusing to guarantee their passports are just some of the problems Timorese migrant workers have been facing in their work place," he said.

Yeremias hoped that by uniting under the umbrella of the Kesanusara, they will be in a stronger position to be heard by the Indonesian and local authorities, and also to demand justice.

"We want to act as the channel to highlight such cases and voice their concerns to the relevant authorities because we, as association leaders, are also on the ground and we know the situation very well.

None of us should suffer in silence," he said.

In addition to international labour standards, migrant workers and members of their families are protected by nine United Nations core international human rights instruments, which apply to all persons irrespective of their nationality.

One of them is the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, which is a UN multi-lateral treaty governing the protection of migrant workers and families.

Closer to home, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been transforming the palm oil industry in collaboration with the global supply chain by putting it on a sustainable path.

The Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) was established early 2014 and became an official part of the RSPO structure.

The work of the HRWG is directly linked to the globally accepted UN Guidelines on Business and Human rights that underlines the State duty to protect human rights, business responsibility to respect human rights and access to remedy for human rights victims.

The responsibility of businesses to respect human rights in the palm oil sector implies that companies apply due diligence to human rights and develop action plans to avoid human rights violations.

It also calls on companies to be pro-active and constructive in the remediation of situations where rights have been abused.

Kesanusara also aims to take care of the welfare of its members.

East Malaysia Planters Association (EMPA) had reported that palm oil plantations in Sabah fully relied on foreign workers, 90 per cent of whom are from Indonesia. - Leonard Alaza



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