By M. Kula Segaran
IPOH, Malaysia--The latest sanctions on disposable gloves produced by Supermax Corporation Bhd units Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, Maxwell Glove Manufacturing Bhd, and Supermax Glove Manufacturing are damning to the inaction by the Federal Government.

It was reported that these gloves would be detained at all U.S. ports of entry effective Thursday (Oct 21). The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against Supermax Corp and its subsidiaries based on information that reasonably alleged their use of forced labor in manufacturing operations.

This is not the first time. In fact four other companies have been subject to sanctions before; Top Glove Corp Bhd, FGV Holdings Bhd and Sime Darby Plantation.

I raised this matter in April, in which the government failed to respond to me. In April I mentioned that while the sanctions are unfortunate, it did not come without warning. I also warned that if not addressed, it could spread to other companies and later other industries, and now it has.

The real let down here is the Home Ministry.

When PH was governing the nation, we initiated a special independent committee on foreign worker management led by former Court of Appeal judge Hishammudin Yunus. 
This committee had produced a report comprising 40 recommendations which I then presented to the Cabinet for discussion. I promised the people that after that this report will be made public.

After presenting it to the Cabinet, a committee was set up and headed by the Chief secretary to the government to suggest how the recommendations and proposals should be implemented. 
Among the suggestions was to establish the Ministry of Human Resources as the single authority for foreign worker management and the development of an end-to-end, single online system for the recruitment of foreign labour.

I propose that the Home Ministry immediately hand over the management of foreign workers to the Human Resources Ministry, so that it can be better managed. Enforcement must be enhanced.

One of the most significant proposals was for the abolishment of outsourcing licences for labour supply, which would have brought an end to third-party service providers or agents. Not one proposal or recommendation has been implemented and better yet, that report was never made public.

As Minister we had a number of townhall sessions with glove manufacturers. I warned about the possibility of sanctions and urged them to comply by cleaning up their supply chains and ensuring no elements of forced labour exist. 
I told them we would work with the US embassy and the US Customs and Border Protection. I went to the US and met with the head of Customs and Border Protection in order to ensure that we work with them to clean up any elements of forced labour.

All is not lost; the Home Ministry can make immediate changes in order to eradicate Forced Labour. This is essentially important because it involves some of our biggest companies that provide thousands of jobs.

I propose that the independent committee report be revisited and its recommendations be implemented immediately. Make the report public.

The government must finally acknowledge that this is a very serious matter that demands attention. The rubber glove manufacturing industry in our country supplies 65 percent of the world market for rubber gloves (300 million pieces) and recorded glove exports worth RM52.7 billion (US $ 12.7 billion) in 2020. This production is very important to meet the growing global demand. Why are we jeopardising the role we play?

I have raised the issue of forced labour many times which has resulted in Malaysia being relegated to level 3 in the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. This in turn has a negative impact on our economy.
*M. Kula Segaran is the Ipoh Barat Member of Parliament and former Human Resources Minister*