Friday, April 4, 2014

NYT pays tribute to ‘champion of the oppressed’, Irene Fernandez

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NYT pays tribute to ‘champion of the oppressed’, Irene Fernandez

Fernandez was convicted and sentenced to a
 year in prison, then released pending appeal. 
In 2008, an appellate judge reversed her 
 (Only in Malaysia!!!)

Fernandez had unearthed evidence of migrant workers being beaten and nearly starved.
In an interview with the New York Times in 2012, she had described the situation as “slavery days coming back”.
Fernandez had also condemned a move by Putrajaya last September to arrest and deport these workers as part of its campaign to rely less on unskilled labour.
She had argued the deportation drive had failed to distinguish refugees from other foreign workers.
The NYT article said Fernandez gained greatest prominence in 1995 when she interviewed more than 300 migrant workers being detained by the government.
They told her of rapes, beatings and inadequate medical care, food and water. After a newspaper printed a memo she provided detailing her findings, the government, in March 1996, charged her with “maliciously publishing false news”.
Her criminal trial dragged on for seven years, one of the longest in Malaysian history. Stanley Augustin, the prosecutor, accused her of blackening her country’s reputation, the NYT said.
“The court must take into account the interests of the nation,” Stanley had said.
n 2012, Fernandez again earned the wrath of Putrajaya when she told an Indonesian newspaper that Malaysia was not safe for foreign workers because it did not have a legal framework or specific laws to protect them.
“When she says something like that, doesn’t she realise that her actions do not help the country or the Malaysian people?” Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said in an interview with the New Straits Times.

Irene's background
Fernandez’s parents were Indians who had moved to Malaysia to work on a rubber plantation when the country was under British rule. She was born on the plantation on April 18, 1946.
She traced her awareness of social and political issues to her childhood, when, as the daughter of a plantation supervisor, she was told not to play with the labourers’ children.
“I always found that a big conflict in me,” she had told the NYT.
As a young activist, Fernandez worked for various labour and rights groups, including the Young Christian Workers Movement.
In 1991, she formed Tenaganita (women’s force in Malay), which ran shelters for migrants and victims of human trafficking. It eventually expanded its efforts to include men.
Her tireless efforts won Fernandez many awards including the Amnesty International Award in 1998; the International PEN Award in 2000; the Jonathan Mann Award in 2004; and the Right Livelihood Award in 2005.
She is survived by her husband of 35 years, Joseph Paul; two daughters, Katrina and Tania; a son, Camerra Jose; and two sisters, Josie and Aegile. – April 2, 2014.

Fernandez, 67, died of heart failure on Monday at Serdang Hospital where she had been warded after complaining of breathing difficulties while on her way to attend the Bersih People's Tribunal on the 13th general election a week before that.
"Her indefatigable advocacy for better treatment of foreign migrant workers had prompted her government to denounce her as a traitor and human rights groups to shower her with awards," said the tribute in the NYT, written by Douglas Martin and titled "Irene Fernandez, champion of oppressed, dies at 67".
The article said Fernandez had abandoned a career as a teacher in her early 20s to fight for social causes.
She helped organise the first textile workers’ union in the country and campaigned for women’s rights, improved consumer education and safer pesticides.
"Her signature crusade was for the rights of the poorest, most marginalised people in her relatively rich country: the migrant workers who do the dirty, ill-paying jobs many native Malaysians snub.
"Foreigners account for more than 16% of the work force in a population of 29 million people, and more than half the foreigners are in the country illegally," said the article.
Fernandez had unearthed evidence of migrant workers being beaten and nearly starved.
In an interview with the New York Times in 2012, she had described the situation as “slavery days coming back”.

Human rights activist Irene Fernandez passed away on Monday at 10.58am and her wake is being held at her house in Jalan Serindit 2, Taman Sungai Ujong, Seremban.

  1. Irene Fernandez - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Irene Fernandez (18 April 1946 – 31 March 2014) was a Malaysian human rights activist. She was a PKR supreme council member and the director and ...

    1. The Star Online ‎- 3 days ago
      PETALING JAYA: Malaysian activists and leaders have paid tribute to Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez, who passed away at 10.58am ...
    1. The Star Online‎ - 4 days ago
    2. Free Malaysia Today‎ - 1 day ago

    More news for irene fernandez

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