BINTULU: Simmering discontent among local and Indonesian workers over poor working and living conditions and preferential treatment given to workers from China exploded into violence at a Samalaju Industrial Estate (SIE) workers camp here on Sunday evening.
The brawl started around 5pm at the main entrance of the workers camp which could accommodate more than 4,000 workers when the angry workers set upon Chinese workers leaving 11 of them and one local worker injured.
The attacks quickly spread to other parts of the camp and by the time the police arrived around 7pm all the attackers had fled the scene.
Five of the wounded were rushed to the hospital here with one suffering serious internal injuries.
When contacted the police chief here, Superintendent Madang Usat, said the police were still identifying the attackers, their motive and the cause of the incident.
“We believe the attackers were in huge number and we are still investigating,” he said.
When asked if the assaults were carried out by local and Indonesian workers, he said they could not assume that all attackers were locals or Indonesians and the police needed more time to investigate.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Jaya Front Sdn Bhd, the company which runs the camp, when met at the scene said they would study the cause of the violence.
After the incident the police transferred all of the workers from China from the camp putting some of them at the Bintulu Stadium while the rest are housed at nearby quarters.
Some of the local workers told the press that they were given only one meal a day and the food was not hygienically prepared.
They also complained of poor wages and poor facilities especially for Muslim workers who were mostly from Indonesia.
Clean water supply was only available from 4am to 7am and from 4pm to 7pm each day and those working late could not take their baths.
They also claimed that the water for them to bathe was taken from the pond near the workers camp and most of them felt itchy after taking a bath.
Among those who rushed to the scene were Bintulu member of parliament Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and Sarawak United People’s Party Bintulu branch chairman Henry Ling.
Tiong urged the Resident’s Office, Police and other related agencies to hold an emergency meeting to find a way to resolve situation.
He stressed that the cause of the problem must be identified and addressed otherwise similar flare-ups might occur again.
“A mistake has been made and damage done, immediate measures must be taken to resolve the situation,” said Tiong.
After a discussion with the local workers at the camp, the MP suggested immediate steps to alleviate their hardship like providing enough food in the canteen, giving workers food allowance so that they could buy their own food and build a canteen specially for the locals.
Tiong also called on the management to have a separate canteens Muslim and non-Muslim workers.
He also urged all the sub-contractors to provide good working and living environment for their workers.