Thursday, Jul 07, 2022

'On The Unfortunate Incident In Malaysia'

The official spokesman on the shock and displeasure at the treatment which was meted out to Indian IT professionals in Malaysia.

Navtej Sarna: Some of you had called me yesterday and I had informed you of the fact that the External Affairs Minister Shri Yashwant Sinha’s planned visit Spain and Brussels has been put off due to the evolving international situation. As a follow up to that I thought I should add that yesterday the EAM made phone calls to the people that he was supposed to meet in Spain and Brussels. In Spain he spoke to the Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio and in Brussels he spoke to EC High Representative, Javier Solana as well as the EU Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten.

These phone calls were in the nature of courtesy calls to explain that he was not going to be meeting them as it was scheduled and on that point there was full understanding on the part of all his counterparts as to the reasons why he was not going. They also assured each other that they would remain in close touch and would meet in the near future. But these telephone calls also gave an opportunity to the EAM to discuss the evolving situation regarding Iraq with the Spanish Foreign Minister as well as with Mr. Solana and Mr. Patten. Each of them discussed their view points with the EAM.

Navtej Sarna: Any further development on the Malaysian incident?

On the unfortunate incident in Malaysia, yes our High Commissioner has been in close touch with the Foreign Ministry there and Home Ministry. We are awaiting clarifications as to why Indian nationals were treated in the way that they were. Meanwhile, as you may perhaps know a Malaysian Minister, the Minister for Entrepreneur Development, Dato Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz is currently in India to attend an international conference and as part of his meetings here he is scheduled to meet the Minister for Commerce and Industry and the Minister for Textiles today and the Minister for Human Resource Development tomorrow. It is expected that during these meetings the Ministers will take up this issue and will be expressing our shock and displeasure at the treatment which was meted out to Indian IT professionals who were there doing their professional job and who are highly regarded all over the world. This issue will be taken up in their conversations with the visiting Malaysian Minister.

One of the opposition parties in Malaysia has called that Malaysian Government should apologise to India? Are we demanding such apology?

We have already called in the Malaysian High Commissioner yesterday and sought explanation of what happened and similarly it has been taken up in Malaysia. As I told you this is going to be taken up by our three Ministers with the visiting Minister.

Any further development on the Iraq situation?

I understand that the decision has been taken that the Indians would be moving out. The External Affairs Minister himself yesterday has spoken to the press. I don’t have any more details to add to that.

Are we thinking in terms of air lifting them from Iraq? Are the Indians leaving?

All eventualities will be prepared for. But as you know that there are only about 40-50 Indians in Iraq and appropriate plans for their movement would be made by the Embassy there and by the other agencies which would be involved in this.

What about those 8 or 9 people in Malaysia. Are they in jail?

The latest information that I have is that out of the 270 who were rounded up, 195 were taken to the police station. After the high level interventions by the High Commission which could only start in the afternoon because the IT professionals and the others there were not allowed consular access. They were not allowed to reach out to the High Commission and even when the High Commission officials reached there it took a couple of hours to get consular access. So after the high level intervention 185 of the 195 were released by day before evening. 10 of them remained in custody. 5 of these were released on Monday and one of them has been released today which leaves a figure of 4.

Any reports of fake visas, etc?

Only four remain out of 195. That means that the others were not in contravention of any laws. In fact they are there as highly regarded professionals who have been invited by Malaysian companies to work in their IT sector which leaves only the question of 4 people. There is nothing yet to say that they are in contravention of law, their cases are being examined.

Has the Malaysian High Commissioner got back to us?

Not to my knowledge and similarly we don’t yet have a satisfactory answer at the Kuala Lumpur end. Naturally I may add after an event which is so high handed and so uncalled for in nature, things cannot quickly go back to business as usual, unless we have a proper explanation and until we are satisfied that the root cause of this has been gone into.

Any idea of how many Indians are working in Malaysia?
I don’t have an overall figure.

Excerpts from the press conference of March 10:

Navtej Sarna: I have received number of calls from some of you on the incident in Malaysia in which several Indian nationals were ill-treated. The High Commissioner of Malaysia in New Delhi Dato Choo was called into the Foreign Office this afternoon by Secretary Mr. R.M. Abhyankar. The Secretary took up the matter of the high-handed way in which Malaysian authorities have treated Indian nationals strongly to the Malaysian High Commission. Such unacceptable action by Malaysian authorities cannot but adversely affect bilateral relations and would also badly dent Malaysia’s image as a destination for IT professionals, as a country which is keen to encourage foreign participation in IT and other sectors.

Are you planning to send the High Commissioner back?

As I told you he was called in today and our views were conveyed to him. Depending upon the clarification or explanations that we receive we will decide upon further action appropriately.

What was the provocation? What happened?

I don’t have any idea of the provocation. That of course will come from the explanations that we get from either here or through our High Commission which has been pursuing this case actively in Kuala Lumpur. But what I do understand is that yesterday at about 7 in the morning the police rounded up about 270 Indians mostly IT professionals and took about 160 odd to the police station where the treatment was rough. The High Commission swung into action and by 7 p.m in the evening all except 8 or 9 of them had been released. Of these 8 or 9 their papers were being checked out and its not necessary that anything is wrong with their papers. The High Commission is working on this issue out there and we are keeping in touch with the High Commission.

Is it true that their visas were scratched out?

These are reports which are coming from Kuala Lumpur and I will be able to get you some more details on each of these cases and on the remaining 8 or 9. But yes I have seen those news reports.

Were they all staying together?

Yes, they were in one block. But that is nothing wrong in that.