A masalah on wheels.
After an Indian talk show clip went viral on social media, stories of human trafficking and abuse at a popular social enterprise restaurant has been brought to light. The gentleman; who is an Indian national, described his experience working at this restaurant where he, amongst others, were denied payment, beaten and sexually assaulted.
Social enterprises in Malaysia have a good reputation for the role they play in both boosting the economy and helping those in need. This particular organisation had also gained immense positive press and feedback with many individuals supporting them for their good food and even better mission.
This restaurant operated under the guise of giving an alternative option to at-risk youth. They claimed to empower their beneficiaries through training and on-ground F&B experience in order to help them become entrepreneurs in the field. It was an amazing idea, especially within our Malaysian society where food plays such an integral role in our culture. The restaurant recruited individuals aged 14-18 from the local B40 community and garnered so much popularity that parents were eventually sending their children over to keep them out of trouble. In addition to this, the organisation has won multiple awards for their work, including a Star Golden Heart Award.
It almost sounds too good to be true… because it is.
The story of the abuse broke slowly over the past couple of weeks and since then, the organisation has removed their facebook account and their website. The police have raided their premises and rescued two young men who corroborate the story of abuse even going further to detail an incident where one individual spoke out against the violence and in turn was burned from the waist down.
It also has come out that the organisation also preyed on boys from India and Sri Lanka, taking their passports away from them and sometimes even burning them. There were also accounts of human trafficking with boys being sold to construction sites. The organisation would recruit the boys and advise them to come to the country with a tourist visa. While waiting for the visas to get approved, they were allegedly sexually assaulted by the owner and were so fearful for their lives that they were unable to seek any help, especially because they did not have their passports.
On the 19th of June, the organisation released a statement denying all claims and that their lawyers were working on a defamation suit against the accuser.
The story is still developing as the police are now involved and moving forward with their investigation.