KUALA LUMPUR: A war of words erupted between Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan and Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran over the issue of foreign workers in critical sectors.
Saravanan slammed the former human resources minister during the Pakatan Harapan administration for imposing a moratorium on the recruitment of workers from Bangladesh on Sept 1, 2018.
"From Sept 1, 2018 to the change of government, we have been lacking foreign workers," said Saravanan.
"Once the government changed, we took over, but Covid-19 pandemic hit the country and due to this, we could not take any foreign workers for about three years," he said in his reply to M. Kulasegaran (PH-Ipoh Barat) during Question Time.
Saravanan added that he managed to finalise the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bangladesh and Indonesia during his tenure, saying that both countries are the largest sources of foreign workers for Malaysia.
Kulasegaran had asked the Human Resources Ministry to explain the initiatives taken to address the shortage of foreign workers in various critical sectors including the plantation sector, which had delayed the country's economic recovery.
"The number of foreign workers that are currently working in our country at the moment is about 1.24 million in various sectors," said Saravanan in his reply.
He also said that the total number of e-Visa with Reference (VDR) applications approved by the Home Ministry is 238,943.
"Aside from that, a total of 644,379 are still going through biometric and medical check ups in the respective source countries. So within the next one or two months, we expect to see an estimated 2.1 million foreign workers coming into the country," said Saravanan.
Saravanan also said that applications must be studied carefully to ensure that they will not deny the rights of local workers.
He added that the ministry will review any future application carefully and in an orderly manner to ensure that Malaysia will not end up being a 'dumping ground' for foreign workers.