Domestic workers and palm oil in the spotlight

Facing challenges: A foreign worker working at an oil palm plantation in Sepang. Indonesia and Malaysia both produce 85% of the world’s palm oil. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia and Indonesia are expected to review the existing agreement on migrant workers and discuss challenges facing the palm oil industry during the Prime Minister’s working visit to Indonesia.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is making his maiden official visit as the 10th Prime Minister to the country on Jan 8.

A government source said Anwar would most probably have a “much-needed discussion” on migrant workers, as Indonesia remains the biggest source of domestic workers for Malaysia.

“There will be no new agreement signed on migrant workers; it will most likely be a review of the existing one that was concluded quite some time ago,” said the source.

The source also revealed that Malaysia and Indonesia are expected to seal a commitment on the use of the One-Channel System (OCS), making it the single platform for the recruitment of Indonesian domestic workers.

In July last year, the then human resources minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said the system enables both countries to monitor and possess information on the entry of Indonesian workers into Malaysia.

He had also said that using one single platform allowed for better monitoring and effective implementation, and would address the issue of worker exploitation, including manipulation by irresponsible recruitment agencies.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said that during Anwar’s trip, the government would definitely focus on improving Malaysia’s image as a business-friendly country.

“To that end, we will continue our engagements with international market leaders and industry players to remove or at least reduce impediments to increase the global market share of our products.

“We need to understand the challenges faced by the plantations and commodities industry locally and internationally, with the emergence of new regulations and standards introduced by certain quarters,” he added.

Fadillah, who is also the Plantations and Commodities Minister, said Malaysia, which chairs the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries this year, should take the opportunity to leverage the council’s aspirations and objectives to bring the “correct narrative” of the palm oil industry to the world.

“At the same time, we have to work with other foreign governments to find the sweet spot for all of us – to ensure an adequate supply of palm oil and other similarly essential commodities while respecting human rights and stringent environmental regulations.

“We need to work closely with all stakeholders to resolve issues and challenges expeditiously, allowing better access to our products across the globe,” added Fadillah.

(Indonesia is the largest palm oil producer worldwide, followed by Malaysia. Both nations produce 85% of the world’s palm oil.)

During his two-day visit, Anwar will also be meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

The two leaders are expected to discuss issues relating to border demarcation, trade, manpower and palm oil, among others.

They are also expected to discuss the situation in Myanmar as Indonesia takes the Asean chairmanship this year.

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Anwar Ibrahim , migrant workers , Indonesia


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