07/06/2020

Urgent Action: Union Members Demanding PPE Charged (Malaysia: UA 93.20)


On 2 June 2020, Malaysian police dispersed a peaceful picket against a hospital cleaning service company. The workers’ complaints included alleged unfair treatment of union members by the company and insufficient personal protective equipment for cleaners. Police arrested, detained and charged five activists for “unauthorized gathering”, violating their rights to freedom of association and assembly. We call on the Minister of Home Affairs to drop all charges against them. Pickets are an essential component of the right to association and no one should be prosecuted solely for a peaceful gathering.

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Dato’ Seri Hamzah Zainudin
Minister of Home Affairs
Kementerian Pertanian dan Industri Makanan,
Aras 17, Wisma Tani, No.28,
Persiaran Perdana, Presint 4,
62624 Putrajaya, Malaysia
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Dato’ Azmil Mohd Zabidi
Embassy of Malaysia
3516 International Court NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 572 9700 I 202 572 9882
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

 

Dear Dato’ Seri Hamzah Zainudin,

I am writing to oppose the arrest, overnight remand, and charges faced by five picketers – M. Sarasvathy, L. Danaletchumy V. Santhiran, P. Jothi, and C Subramaniam Raja – a peaceful picket on 2 June 2020 outside Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh. Some of the activists are hospital workers. The picket denounced the alleged mistreatment of cleaners in the hospital including: inadequate supply of protective equipment for COVID-19, intimidation of workers active in the union, the cancellation of a Collective Agreement accepted by the previous sub-contractor, and the lack of annual increase in wages and paid holidays or sick leave – by a company sub-contracted for hospital cleaning services. The company denies these allegations.

The five picketers were arrested, remanded overnight, and chained in court, which is concerning as it is a form of inhuman or degrading treatment that may amount to torture. They face a fine of up to RM 1,000 (USD 234) each or up to six months’ imprisonment or both, for allegedly violating the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020 that outlaws mass gatherings. Their next court appearance is 28 August 2020. Amnesty International calls on the government not to imprison people for breaching public health restrictions, which is a disproportionate measure given the high transmission risks in places of detention.

The COVID-19 crisis should not be used as a pretext to unnecessarily and disproportionately suppress rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Healthcare workers are the backbone of society especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to deliver services despite the risks. I call on you to drop all charges against the five members, as the charges are either contrary to international human rights law or carry penalties that will disproportionately affect this group; ensure that all hospital workers are provided with adequate and quality personal protective equipment, information, training, and psychosocial support; and investigate allegations against the company to ensure all labor laws are enforced

Yours sincerely,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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