War of words erupts over workers issue


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, with the ministry saying that an estimated two million foreign workers are set to enter the country soon.

Saravanan slammed Kulasegaran, who was the Human Resources Minister during the Pakatan Harapan administration, for imposing a moratorium on the recruitment of workers from Bangladesh on Sept 1, 2018.

“Since Sept 1, 2018, until the change of a new government, we have been lacking foreign workers.

“Once the government changed, we took over, but the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, and due to this, we could not take any foreign workers for about three years,” he replied to M. Kulasegaran (PH-Ipoh Barat) during Question Time.

Kulasegaran had asked the ministry to explain the initiatives taken to address the shortage of foreign workers in various critical sectors, including plantations, which had delayed the country’s economic recovery.

He said although the minister had said approval was given, the reality was different.

“Various associations, including the Masters Builders Association Malaysia, palm oil sector, as well as coffee shop owners, have claimed that they have yet to arrive.

“Some even say they are not aware (of the approval). It is your role to expedite the arrival of workers, and please do not confuse the Dewan and the world,” said Kulasegaran.

Saravanan pointed out that he managed to finalise the memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh and Indonesia during this tenure, the two largest source countries of foreign workers for Malaysia.

“The number of foreign workers that are currently working in our country at the moment is about 1.24 million across various sectors.

“The total number of eVisa 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, who added that this figure is already higher than the pre-pandemic days, which was about 1.8 million people.

He also said that the ministry will carefully look over any future applications to make sure that Malaysia doesn’t become a “dumping ground” and to protect the rights of local workers.

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