SIBU: The exploitation of over 100 Indonesian workers by an oil palm plantation at KM88 Sibu-Bintulu Road has caught the attention of Foreign Workers Rehabilitation and Counselling Centre and it wants the relevant authorities to step in to look into the matter.
Amir Ibrahim, president-cum-director of the centre, whose office is in Kuala Lumpur, said yesterday that he would report the matter to the Human Resource Minister, Datuk Seri Richard Riot, and Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“I want to ask them why such a thing is still happening in the country. This is a very serious case as it involves a big number of foreign workers who have been badly exploited by the company,” he told Sarawak Metro.
Amir said he came to know of the case from a mandor of the plantation, Mukhtar Mude, 32, from South Sulawasi.
Mukhtar had called him up in early March for help after getting his contact from a news report on similar cases elsewhere.
According to Mukhtar, who was also at the press conference, they were recruited by their respective agents to work in the said plantation two years ago with a basic pay of RM900 monthly.
“The agreement and the one-year working permit which had already expired were made by the company and the Indonesian Consulate. However, we were not given a copy of the documents. Not only that, the company was also holding our passport,” said a dejected Mukhtar.
He said instead of the promised RM900 salary, they were given only RM300 monthly for eight-hour daily work in the plantation for the past two years.
The plantation did not even provide them with workers’ quarters.
“We had no choice but to build the quarters with our own money including buying all the basic items such as mattresses, and crockery.
“There was no treated water supply for us so we had to use river water for washing and drinking. The company was also not providing us with medical benefit,” he said.
As their passports were kept by the company, he said they were given an identification number written on a small piece of paper.
“We were caught by the police when we went to Selangau Bazaar and we had a hard time explaining to them. Some others even had to give up to RM30 for the police to let us go,” he said.
Many workers had escaped from the plantation without their passports as they could no longer stand the ill treatment by the company, he said, adding: “They escaped to work in other plantations in the Tatau area as the meagre pay was also not enough for them to survive.
Mukhtar said he had several times approached the company and the Indonesian Consulate on the matters but was ignored by them, leaving him with the only option of seeking the help of Amir.
Amir said he flew from Kuala Lumpur on March 10 and went straight to the plantation to see the situation there and to hear from the other affected workers.
“What I saw was appalling as they were also living in a very poor environment. All the workers had told me of the same thing. I also want the police and the Immigration Department to explain why this is happening,” Amir said.
According to him, he had related the predicament of the workers to the chairman of the plantation on his chance meeting with him at Sibu Airport last month.
“He was not aware of the matter and had allowed me to conduct a full-scale investigation,” he said.
Amir said from his information gathered, the workers were not exploited by the parent company but by the sub-contractor.
“All I want now is for the workers to be given back what is due to them with regards to the pay, their passports and money spent on their housing needs,” he said.