PETALING JAYA: The suggestion to recruit African workers for the plantation sector will be dropped, says Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran.
He also said that his statement concerning the employment of workers from African countries for the plantation sector was taken out of context.
“These days, context is everything, a statement made without it is apt to be misconstrued.
“A remark I made at Cameron Highlands yesterday (June 29) that Malaysia may take in workers from Africa to fill gaps in manpower in our plantation sector has been read out of context.
“The issue arose when farmers in Cameron Highlands, in a meeting with me, complained that they were in dire need of foreign workers,” he said yesterday.
He said he had told them that during a recent meeting with plantation owners, he was informed that workers from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia and Vietnam were no longer keen on working in oil palm estates, preferring instead the sometimes dangerous, difficult and dirty occupations their Malaysian counterparts disdained to perform in urban areas.
He added that bearing in mind that oil palm fruits must be harvested within 21 days of their fruiting or became unsuitable for processing, there was – according to plantation owners – an oversupply of the fruits in estates because of a lack of labour to harvest them.
“It is said the plantation industries are losing some RM10bil a year due to unharvested fruits because of a worker shortage.
“Plantation owners incur huge losses and the country loses out in gaining foreign exchange,” he said.
Kulasegaran added that plantation owners then suggested that the government consider employing workers from Africa, particularly from countries where Malaysia was already heavily invested in the oil and gas sector as well as in plantations.
“That seemed like an understandable suggestion.
“It was in this context that at the townhall session, I floated the idea that the government may have to look to Africa to shore up the labour shortfall in plantation agriculture in Malaysia,” he explained.
Given that there is a need to get Cabinet approval for this suggestion – which has not taken place – and the fact that the Prime Minister has said there is no necessity for workers from Africa, Kulasegaran ended his statement by saying that he would inform plantation owners that the whole suggestion would be dropped.
On Saturday, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government had not decided on the matter, adding that there was “no need to bring in foreigners”.
Earlier yesterday, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council member Tan Sri Rais Yatim also criticised the minister over the suggestion to hire workers from the African continent for the Malaysian plantation sector.
“Stop the Africans from coming to our shore.
“Madness is already here via Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, China and what have you. YB Kula stop it before the rakyat stop you. Train Malaysians to live with their hands and minds. Give them good gaji,” he posted on Twitter.