Without fear or favour

  • Community
  • Sunday, 09 Mar 2014

News of a call by eateries for authorities to stop operations to weed out illegal foreign workers is disturbing. This clearly shows a blatant disregard for the law.

I AM concerned about reports that the management of more than 500 restaurants and coffee shops in Miri is putting pressure on the authorities, through the city council, to halt operations to weed out illegal foreign workers.

Only such influential groups have the cheek to urge the authorities to halt their duties to enforce the law. It seems that only in Malaysia do we have such blatant disregard for the law.

It reminded me about a Member of Parliament’s call several years ago for the police to not go after those who failed to pay their traffic summonses despite repeated reminders.

Just imagine, a lawmaker calling on enforcement agencies not to enforce the law they make.

So I call on the authorities, especially the police and the immigration, to step up the raids without fear or favour and to fully enforce the law.

We must eradicate the scourge of illegal foreign workers once and for all.

I also dispute the claim by the Miri Restaurants and Coffeeshops Association that the authorities detained those with valid permits as well.

I do not think that the Immigration Department would round up and detain legal foreign workers.

They are only after illegal ones, and this is only after so many warnings and time extension given to employers to legalise their foreign workers under the 6P programme.

The association also claimed that the raids conducted by the department and police had caused members to suffer huge losses, with half of the outlets having to cease operations temporarily because they had no worker left.

This really let the cat out of the bag — they probably have been employing illegal foreign workers all this while!

I call on the authorities to arrest the owners of these outlets for employing and harbouring illegal foreign workers.

It is a serious offence. It has caused huge economic losses to the country in terms of domestic consumption, denying employment opportunities to locals, not to mention the security and safety risk to the country with more than an estimated one million illegal foreign workers.

We are on the US Watch List for human trafficking.

The association statement seemed to indicate that the outlets had profited from the illegal practice all these years.

I also wonder why the association sent the protest to city council.

The council’s role is to assist the authorities to enforce laws and regulations, not to flout them or to find flimsy excuses.

Let us not forget the controversies relating to the issuing of licences for karaoke outlets in Miri that had local family and community leaders up in arms.

To me, sending a protest to the council can be deemed as an attempt to obstruct or influence or pressure the authorities from carrying out their duties.

I am also very amused with the claim by Mayor Lawrence Lai that the raids would disrupt the tourism industry.

I fail to see the logic of continuing to allow an illegal practice just to attract tourists.

Those who fly home after travelling abroad will notice this announcement when the plane is about to land.

It goes like this: “Please be reminded that trafficking in illicit drugs is a very serious offence in Malaysia and will upon conviction, carry the mandatory death penalty”.

Should we stop this announcement because it may scare off tourists? Quite frankly, if tourists come to Miri just to have their food at outlets that employ illegal foreign workers, they should not be welcomed.

Mayor Lai’s statement that the restaurants and coffee shops were forced to hire foreign workers from Indonesia and the Philippines as no locals wanted to work in these places and that the pay was too low runs counter to the Government’s minimum wage policy.

The association claimed that they pay over RM8,000 in levy to the Government, agent fees, airfares, accommodation and food just to bring one foreign worker in for a two-year contract, equivalent to RM333 a month.

Local workers are more than prepared to work if the RM333 is paid to them on top of the minimum wage of RM800.

I again call on the authorities to step up the raids and bring every employer to book for hiring illegal foreign manpower.

The mayor’s office must assist.

I also call on the local population and tourists to boycott places that hire illegal foreign workers. After all, the prices at these outlets are no cheaper than those who employ legal workers.

MTUC has received the most complaints of price increase in eateries.

A cup of Milo is as high as RM2.80. When the price of sugar went up by 20 sen a kilo, a cup of coffee went up by 40 sen.

Do you need two kilos of sugar to make one cup of coffee?

No wonder the number of diabetics in Malaysia is exceedingly high. And how do you justify increasing the price of kopi-O kosong, which has no sugar?

Recently, the Kuching and Samarahan Association of Restaurants and Coffeeshops issued a statement to say that prices would go up by 15%.

It was only after I raised the issue in this column that such practice could run foul of the Competition Act that the association retracted the statement.

By then the damage had been done.

The outlets also cited the increase in the price of subsidised cooking gas to justify the price increase. Hello! Subsidised gas is for home users only, not for eateries.

I call on the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry to investigate.

I also call on the ministry to urgently develop and strengthen the consumer movement in the country to check the might of businesses to increase prices arbitrary.

It must be noted that in many countries, price increases have led to extreme social unrest. Let’s not go down that road.

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