KUCHING: The government will make sure that the 12,000 Bangladeshis being brought in to work in plantations across the state next year would not end up without jobs.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot said a meeting between his ministry and the state Land Development Ministry on more details on the matter must be held by this month.
“We want to make sure that the intake of these Bangladeshi workers does not only conform to the standard operating procedure, but also in ensuring that priority would be given to companies that are genuinely in need of workers.
“We do not want to come to a situation where the workers come in but no employers are taking them,” he told a press conference after opening the Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Bhd (PSMB)’s new branch office at Wisma Perkeso here yesterday.
He reiterated that the decision to bring in the Bangladeshis was the request from the state government in meeting the shortage of 62,000 workers in the state’s plantation sector. He revealed that the bilateral discussions between Malaysia and Bangladesh several months ago on the matter did not only involve the federal government, but also participation of two senior officers from the state.
“How soon will they (Bangladeshi workers) be brought in? The answer is as soon as possible, but this is depending on the need of the employers. Before that, however, we’ve got to have discussions with the state government particularly because of certain reasons such as Sarawak having its own Labour Ordinance.
“Let’s not forget that the request for foreign workers came from the plantation owners in Sarawak. For a start, the federal government had agreed to bring in 12,000 Bangladeshi workers. And if this is successful, more would be brought in,” he said.
Riot pointed out that the arrival of the Bangladeshi workers would be in stages. Upon their arrival at Kuala Lumpur from Dhaka, he said the ministry’s officers would make sure that they would be brought to the state.
“We are going to be very strict. Upon (the Bangladeshis’) arrival at Kuala Lumpur, our officers from the Policy Division would ensure that they remain in groups, and then they would take available flights to Kuching. Upon reaching here, the employers should be waiting for them. We do not want the Bangladeshis to become illegal foreign workers.”
Asked if there were plans to bring in workers from other countries, Riot said there had been considerations to engage those from Nepal and Myanmar to work in the plantation sector.
“Before this, we depended a lot on workers from our neighbour Indonesia. But since the opening of a lot of palm oil plantations there especially in Kalimantan Barat, many of them prefer to work in their own country rather than to come here,” he said.
Riot also mentioned that among all sectors, Indonesian nationals still constituted the largest number of foreign workers in the country, followed by Nepalese and Bangladeshis.
“In other words, our country is ‘heaven on earth’ for foreign workers,” he quipped.