Press Statements

Oppressing the Rights of Migrant Workers With Unsafe Work Environment

Foremost, MACSA extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims killed in the Bukit Kukus landslide on 19th October. MACSA follows the developments in the recent Bukit Kukus landslide incident with grave concerns and apprehension. The scenes unfolding are akin to the landslide in Tanjung Bungah that happened on 21st October last year, which claimed 11 lives, many of whom are migrant workers. Investigations following the Tanjung Bungah incident showed that many environmentalists have warned the authorities and parties involved in the construction project at the area, of the calculated danger in proceeding with the project. Alas, the warnings fell on deaf ears.

Malaysia has been a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1957 and has ratified 18 ILO Conventions, of which 17 are still in force including Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187). Convention No. 187 imposes active responsibility on Malaysia to ensure a safe and healthy working environment through national system and programmes. Following this, Malaysia has indicated its commitment towards achieving a culture in which the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels including by enacting Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 [Act 514] and initiating efforts to develop the Decent Work Country programme.

Our country’s land development policies must take into account of the rights of construction workers to safe and healthy work environment. While the Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate into the Tanjung Bungah landslide has concluded its inquiry in May 2018, yet no party has been charged for the negligence in allowing the construction of a high-rise building so near to a hill slope. This is even more so considering that the investigation has revealed many weaknesses in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which was implemented at the site, making the project not only environmentally unsafe but also illegal.

MACSA calls on all national stakeholders, particularly the relevant approval authorities, to respect the country’s commitment under ILO conventions especially considering the possible fatal effects it would otherwise bring onto the many migrant workers employed at our local construction sites. Section 15 of Act 514 expressly provides that it is the duty of every employer to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees. Under subsequent Section 19 of Act 514, any employer who fails to comply with this duty will shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM50,000.00 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

Such a weak penalty will not deter construction developers from playing willy-nilly with the lives of workers at their sites. A stricter and more forceful penalty is needed to ensure full compliance of Act 514. MACSA implores Malaysian government to look into allegation of negligence by the developers and malfeasance by any public officials for their collective failure in safeguarding the rights of construction workers, especially the migrant workers, who lost their lives in the landslide.


Azril Mohd Amin, Chief Executive, CENTHRA and Chairperson, MACSA or the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process.

Associate Professor Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, President of The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ) and Co-Chairperson, MACSA.

The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (MACSA) is a coalition of civil society organisations with the specific aim and object to look into, as well as advocate, human rights issues in Malaysia for the UPR Process.

Also published in MalaysiaKini.

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