Political perfidy in pandemic


Kenneth Cheng Chee Kin

The country risks simplifying a complex issue when foreign workers’ status is determined solely by their legality. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 13, 2020.

COVID-19 has exposed the breadth of inequality in Malaysia, with the B40 group disproportionately impacted by the health crisis and ensuing economic downturn. More alarming, perhaps, is that amid the pandemic, the nation has swerved to the right, apparent in how grievances, from social to political, have given rise to hatred and malice towards migrants and refugees.

The story of Eleyas illustrates the plight of Rohingya Muslims here in this testing time, and is one that’s all too familiar to most undocumented foreigners. The 38-year-old fled persecution in his home country of Myanmar in 2014. As Malaysia doesn’t grant refugees the right to work, he is assumed to have been illegally employed for six years until he was fired during the virus crisis. Eleyas is now in hiding to avoid arrest and harassment. According to Reuters, he was sacked simply for being a Rohingya.


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