KUALA LUMPUR: If there is no concrete solution to the freeze on the intake of foreign workers, the iconic 24-hour mamak restaurants will be out of business soon, says the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma).
Its president Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed sounded the alarm, saying that more than 200 mamak restaurants have closed down after the freeze was announced by the Government in February.
“The freeze is causing a strain to many of our members who cannot cope with the shortage of foreign workers.
“Many have closed shop or ceased their 24-hour operations due to the shortage,” he told reporters here yesterday.
He warned that more restaurants are likely to close shop if the freeze is not lifted soon. Presma has 3,500 registered members.
He said the association initially thought that the freeze on foreign workers would be temporary and that the restriction would be lifted as what was done for the construction, manufacturing and agriculture sectors two months ago.
“However, the restriction on bringing in foreign workers for the services sector, particularly the restaurant sub-sector, is still in place,” he said.
“The 24-hour mamak restaurant has become a regular feature in the Malaysian landscape.
“If the freeze continues, there is a danger that we will lose the mamak restaurant as a uniquely Malaysian restaurant,” he added.
He also said the closure of the restaurants would also mean that the Government would lose revenue from taxes as the mamak restaurant business generate an annual income of RM8bil.
Mamak restaurant owner Z. Sahubarali, 50, said he was forced to close down his “Ali Food Corner” in Damai Perdana, Cheras after 15 years in the business.
“I had no choice as my workers’ contracts had ended and they had to return to their home countries.
“The freeze means we are not allowed to take in new workers to replace them,” he added.
Malaysian India Restaurant Owners Association’s (Primas) vice-president C. Krishnan said that some 150 Indian restaurants had also ceased operations.
“The impact is not confined to the restaurant operators.
“Their closure will have a chain reaction to the local economy. It would mean loss of business for their suppliers too,” Krishnan said.
Malaysia-Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors’ General Association secretary Khoo Siang Pak said that 2,000 operators were badly hit by the freeze.
The associations are appealing to the Government to lift the freeze, assuring that they were willing to work with the authorities to ensure a transparent and efficient system to bring in the foreign labour.