Sumitha Shaanthinni

Bar Council of Malaysia

Active in Country: Malaysia

DTP Alumna: 2014 Migrant Workers Program - Dubai.


Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna participated in DTP 2014 Migrant Workers Program in Dubai. She is the Assistant Director at the Bar Council of Malaysia, and her core areas of work include assisting various committees including the Human Rights Committee, Migrants Refugees & Immigration Affairs Committee and Industrial & Employment Law Committee. She is also the Head of Department of the Practitioners Affair Division at the Bar Council Secretariat.


At the council, Sumitha works on a number of migrant workers’ issues. She assists in the provision of legal representations to migrants on the violation of labour rights with cases including non-payment of wages, compensation for injuries, migrants who wish to be repatriated, and when migrants are wrongfully detained for immigration and criminal cases (including death penalty and clemency petition). She advocates these issues to government authorities and various embassies in Malaysia. She also provides knowledge based consultations for labour attaches of foreign missions in Malaysia to assist them in understanding the laws relevant to migrants. 


Sumitha explains that Malaysia is yet to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW), and encouraging its ratification is a key advocacy objective, and it is constantly brought up in meetings with authorities. A revision of the memorandum on migrant rights will be carried out to incorporate Malaysia's obligations under ratified conventions and to urge Malaysia to accede to more labour conventions. Furthermore, she has additional advocacy priorities outlined coinciding with CMWs 25th anniversary this year, which include commencing a campaign with NGOs and National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) to urge Malaysia to ratify Convention Against Torture, removal of whipping for immigration offences, and caning of children (local and foreign nationals) for criminal offences. 


Sumitha asserts that she has witnessed positive impact from the advocacy for migrant workers’ rights. Some of which she enlightens are,


  • Better support from the foreign mission in assisting the migrants e.g. in issuing documents for exit pass to repatriate. In the past, foreign embassies were reluctant to assist migrants who came through irregular routes or those undocumented as it did not want to encourage more such migrant
  • More migrants are coming forward with their cases which indicate that the Bar's and NGOs outreach to the community is working and migrants know their rights better
  • Migrant community are more organised, hence, we are able to reach out to more migrants
  • Employers respond more positively in resolving the cases amicably
  • We have been consulted in laws related to migrants e.g. the Draft regulation on domestic workers and the preparation of the 8th ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour (AFML)

Sumitha participated in the DTP Migrant Workers Program with the goal of obtaining a better understanding of the migration policies of countries of origin, and the strategies to implement policies addressing migrant workers’ rights.


Profile written September 2016