A Little Gentle Flogging
I would normally agree that the term "Kafkaesque" is overused. But I can't for the life of me think of anything more appropriate to describe what's going on in Malaysia's immigration saga. Think of In The Penal Colony ... and you'll get the point.
A little recap may be order for those of you who've not been following. Last year the Malaysian authorities decided to expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrant workers, mainly drawn from Indonesia and the Philippines. The usual xenophobic nonsense is used to justify the move. Then on 26 December the earthquake-tsunami catastrophe strikes – devastating Aceh, killing hundreds of thousands and making millions homeless and jobless. The Malaysian government pushes on with its deportation plans though the deadline is moved in response to pleas from the Indonesian and Philippine governments and Malaysian NGOs. The punishments for over-stayers are, by any account, draconian: fines, imprisonment and floggings. The 1 March deadline arrives with few having already left the country while many migrants go into hiding. Malaysian government spokesmen go on record to say that even asylum seekers and refugees will be targeted in contravention of the country's international legal undertakings. Over the last month perhaps 500,000 workers have been forced out. And now comes this.
The same politicians who ordered the deportations are now convening a cabinet meeting to discuss ... the labour shortage in crucial sectors of the economy: factories, restaurants, construction sites and palm oil plantations where many Malaysians simply don't want to work. So they're now turning their attention to recruiting from South Asia and especially from Pakistan. But some critics are worried that the new migrant workers may have Islamist links to al-Qaeda. This one could run and run.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's executioners and floggers are about to see their performance-related pay rise by over 300%. As the BBC puts it:
With threats to flog an estimated half a million illegal migrants thought to be hiding in Malaysia, prison officers could be in for a major windfall.In case you're thinking of applying for a job I'd better give you the new improved rates: 10 ringgit ($2.60) for each blow with the bamboo rotan – and foreigners convicted of immigration offences can be given up to six beatings. Nice work if you can get it. But be warned, according to the prison service the competition is tough:
flogging jobs are hotly contested, with only one in five applicants being accepted. The service says only hardened staff are suitable.In case migrant workers are trembling at the prospect of overpaid psychopaths beating ten shades of crap out of them they should just chill a little:
[T]he government has stressed that illegal migrants will be flogged gently.Where's the little Bohemian scribbler when you need him?