MPOA slams report on plantation staff abuse and rape
Published on: Monday, November 23, 2020
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Fatimah Jalal - a smallholder palm oil farmer - cuts back weeds on her plot in Toniting, Beluran District, Sabah. – Getty Images
Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) said it viewed the sweeping allegations made in the article by the Associated Press (AP) as exaggerated and propaganda.

MPOA is referring to the article by AP dated November 18, 2020 with headlined “Rape, abuses in palm oil fields linked to top cosmetics brands.”

In a statement, MPOA Chief Executive Officer Datuk Nageeb Wahab said the writers have gone to some lengths to perpetuate their narrative and create an impression that such abuse is endemic when in fact, such acts of violence, oppression and harassment are isolated incidents which, when reported or escalated, and treated with the due care and attention they deserve.

Nageed said Malaysian health and safety laws regulate the conduct of operations within estates, and they serve to protect all workers, giving due consideration to specific and special circumstances that may require additional caution.

“Rape and harassment are classified as criminal offences under Malaysian law, as well as the stringent internal policies of all responsible growers.

“Thus, contrary to the assertions in the article, Malaysian growers have largely strived to provide safe environments for their female workforce,” he said.

The AP article mentioned women bear the brunt of brutal toil at plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia linked to names including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.

It said such workers do some of the industry’s worst jobs, spending hours in tainted water and carrying loads so heavy that, over time, their wombs can collapse.

Nageeb said all growers who are by law required to abide by the principles of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard, have in place a slew of measures to prevent violence, aggression and harassment against women and children.

“It must be noted that this is the second of two articles in less than two months targeted the palm oil industry, exerting pressure on those who continue to prefer to buy palm oil over competing oils produced in western countries by western farmers,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said MPOA would also like to point out that this is an issue of global concern, one that all societies across the planet are grappling with, as has been well captured, especially over the last few years.

“We believe that all rape, abuses and acts of violence, harassment and oppression against women and other vulnerable groups must be eradicated.

“Anyone who has evidence of criminal or wrongful activity is strongly urged to lodge the relevant reports with the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

“This is an important first step that ought to be taken, if indeed the allegations have any basis in fact,” he added. 


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