Monday, November 24, 2008

Irene Fernandez is free!

In one of the longest cases in Malaysian history, justice has finally come for Irene Fernandez, although I am still adamant that this should never have happened in the first place.  

A name today that does not roll off the tongue as freely as PRK or Uthuyakumar, yet she has been the bastion of Tenaganita - the main NGO that speaks for migrant workers and against the trafficking of women. 

In an office that overrun with case folders and low income wage earners that spills out into the landing at times, her tiny team still records cases of abuse, misuse and heartbreak, and negotiate endlessly with employers, embassies, government agencies and the police.  Powers that be who usually don't take to being criticised openly. Which of course was exactly what Irene had done and got her arrested and embroiled in a court case that has lasted almost 13 years.  

Anyway an except from Wiki:

Irene Fernandez (*1946) is the director and co-founder of the non-governmental organization Tenaganita, which promotes the rights of migrant workers and other oppressed and poor people in Malaysia. They had been given the promise of getting support for their families at home by the rich, but instead, they got cheated and had to suffer malnutrition, torture and sexual abuse.

In 1995, Irene Fernandez published a report on the living conditions of the migrant workers. She was arrested in 1996 and charged with 'maliciously publishing false news'. After seven years of trial, she was found guilty in 2003 and imprisoned for one year. She was later freed on bail but her passport is held by the courts and, as a convicted person, she was barred from standing as parliamentary candidate in the 2004 Malaysian elections. Despite her restricted civil rights, she carries on her everyday life and continues her work.

In 2005, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for "her outstanding and courageous work to stop violence against women and abuses of migrant and poor workers".

The public has been urged to show their support by showing up in court and draw support from friends and family. The mass media in Malaysia are not expected give full coverage on the news due to tight control by the authorities.

 From a time when I actually made a difference

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