Malaysia urges Pelosi to review poor status in human trafficking report

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with Malaysia Parliament Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun in Kuala Lumpur.
PHOTO: Reuters

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Tuesday (Aug 2) urged the US to review its decision to keep his nation at Tier 3 of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, as he hosted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is on a tour of Asia.

Last month, the US State Department maintained, for the second year in a row, Malaysia’s position as worst ranked in the annual report for failing to meet minimum standards to eliminate trafficking and for not making significant efforts.

“I have asked the United States to review its Tier 3 ranking of Malaysia in its Trafficking in Persons report,” Ismail said in a Facebook post after hosting a lunch for Pelosi and her Congressional delegation.

“During the luncheon, I had stated Malaysia’s continued commitment to deal with the issue of human trafficking and migrant smuggling in Malaysia,” he said.

The prime minister made no mention of any discussion with Pelosi over her visit to self-ruled Taiwan, which is not officially part of her four-nation tour of Asia and is a decision that has created tension in the region.

China, which considers the island a breakaway province and has vowed to take it back by force if “peaceful reunification” fails, has called Pelosi’s trip a provocation and a move to support Taiwan independence.

Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday evening, making her the first House speaker to make the trip since Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Read Also
Pelosi arrives in Taiwan vowing US commitment; China enraged
Pelosi arrives in Taiwan vowing US commitment; China enraged

In a transcript of Pelosi’s remarks at Tuesday’s lunch that was posted on her official website, the US House Speaker said that Malaysia “is very important” and that the US hopes to build on over 60 years of diplomatic ties to foster closer collaboration on security, economic prosperity and governance.

She made no mention of Taiwan, although she did say in a separate statement that she had a wide-ranging discussion with Ismail and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah “on advancing our shared goals for a free and secure Indo-Pacific”.

Pelosi’s Asian tour, which started on Monday in Singapore, officially covers four nations including Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

The US is Malaysia’s largest investment partner, responsible for cumulative investments worth 117.44 billion ringgit (S$36 billion) as of this year, besides sending more than US$200 million in defence aid to Malaysia.

While Pelosi’s visit was overshadowed by her Taiwan stop, it was still an important avenue for Malaysia to address existing economic and defence cooperation and its poor ranking on the US TIP report, said Shahriman Lokman, an analyst with the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia.

“It’s important that people understand that Congress is an independent branch of the US government. It is too simple to presume that there is a deliberate message being sent by the US per se,” Shahriman told This Week in Asia .

“There’s obviously disagreement in Washington DC over the wisdom of this trip. The only thing they agree on is that China shouldn’t have a veto over where the US Speaker goes.”

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.