KUALA LUMPUR: Former human resources minister M. Kulasegaran has told the government not to "torture" Indian businesses following a freeze on foreign worker recruitment in three subsectors.
"Don't forget the tremendous support of the Indian community, and instead, now torture the Indian businesses.
"Flexibility should be given and the freeze order cancelled," he said when debating Budget 2023 at the committee stage in Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday (March 22).
Kulasegaran (PH-Ipoh Barat) raised the issue in relation to the freeze on the recruitment of foreign workers in three subsectors where the local Indian business community is heavily involved.
The freeze, effective March 15, applies to textile, goldsmith and barber shops, with many of these operators saying they face closure due to what they call an "unfair ruling".
According to an Immigration Department circular, the last date to extend the temporary work passes was March 15, although the passes have not reached their maximum validity period of 13 years.
Workers whose permits ended before March 15 can only be renewed for a year, after which they will be repatriated.
Kulasegaran said he brought up the matter with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when they met on Monday (March 20) and texted Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar too after that.
"The Prime Minister said he understood the situation," said Kulasegaran, who was in charge of human resources under the Pakatan Harapan government previously.
He said the freeze on the three subsectors was put in place in 2009 but lifted when Pakatan took over the administration in 2018.
Besides the freeze on the recruitment of foreign workers for these subsectors, he said those currently employed will also have to leave the country soon.
"I hope the Human Resources Minister will meet the Prime Minister and Home Ministry soon to make a wise and swift decision to overcome this problem," he added.
Last week, the Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president N. Gobalakrishnan was reported to have said that about 10,000 Indian businesses from these sectors could be forced to close as permits were being terminated in stages.