Sabah minister calls for tolerance, mediation in wake of brawl outside factory

KOTA KINABALU: Effective mediation between employers and employees of different ethnicities and cultures is needed if Sabah wants to remain friendly to foreign direct investments, says a state minister.

Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship Minister Datuk Phoong Jin Zhe said effective mediation is needed as Sabah moves towards industrialisation, which will see an influx of foreign workers.

His comments followed a fight that allegedly broke out between local and Chinese workers outside a factory at the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP) near here on Monday (Feb 26).

He said the incident, which was caught on video and went viral, was uncalled for as it could potentially harm ongoing efforts to attract investments to Sabah.

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Phoong said nine people, including China nationals, have been detained for questioning and the investigation was ongoing.

“A different working culture could have been the cause of (conflict). However, I can guarantee that the misunderstanding did not stem from worker rights abuses,” he said here on Wednesday (Feb 28).

He gave an assurance that the state would not compromise on worker’s rights and in fact, the local workers involved earned above-average wages and were paid promptly.

He said the general manager of the company also gave his word that extra care would be taken in managing workers of differing cultures and backgrounds.

“Fellow Sabahans, please do not have negative impressions of foreign investors as they are needed in the state’s journey towards industrialisation,” he said.

On Tuesday (Feb 27), Kota Kinabalu OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Zaidi Abdullah said in a statement that nine people were arrested over the fight hours after a police report was lodged.

He said those detained were being investigated for rioting.

This is the second brawl recorded between local and foreign workers at the KKIP area.

In the previous incident in April last year, employees from another company staged a protest which turned ugly after they were told that they would be paid late for Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

The matter was resolved a week before Hari Raya and the workers managed to get their salary for the celebrations.

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