KENINGAU: The government must make rational decisions and not be swayed by sentiments when running the country, says Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, in justifiying the state administration's proposal to legitimise illegal workers.
Mohd Shafie reiterated that issuing special passes to illegal foreign workers was necessary to regulate them in their professions, and it was not equivalent to granting the workers automatic citizenship.
The Parti Warisan Sabah president said the proposal, which was brought up last year, was needed to spur the economy as well as solve the shortage of labour supply in the state, especially in "heavy" industries usually avoided by locals.
However, the move was criticised by several quarters accusing the government of giving citizenship to illegal immigrants in the state.
"If we listened to every person accusing the government of issuing ICs to illegal immigrants, Sabah will cease to function.
"How will we develop our industries like this? How would we find workers to fill the shortage?
"We have to be very smart, not emotional, when running the country and economy. We must be rational and not be swayed by emotions," he added.
Mohd Shafie stressed that the special passes were merely a regulatory mechanism, and they would be issued in accordance with labour necessities in the state's various industries.
"I have asked the state Trade and Industry Ministry to take stock of how much manpower is needed in every sector.
"There would be times when the labour shortage cannot be filled with just local workers. We need manpower from countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
"We need to make it legal for them to work here, so that they would not get arrested in immigration raids.
"Imagine if every foreign worker here was arrested. That would be troublesome to everyone (including local employers and workers)," he said after visiting Focus Lumber Berhad here on Friday (Jan 11).
Mohd Shafie spoke to reporters after visiting several places in the district including the Keningau Integrated Livestock Centre, the Evergreen Livestock Dairy Farm and SK Tuarid.
The State Finance Minister said industries such as agriculture and timber were important in creating new products, contributing to federal and state government income, as well as provide job opportunities to Sabah youths.
He explained that the government needs to ensure that the various industries would benefit as many people as possible, especially those at the grassroots level.