THE announcement by the Government that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Bangladesh to bring in 1.5 million workers to Malaysia has caused a firestorm.
According to the Home Ministry, the workers are needed in the “3D” sector – jobs deemed dangerous, dirty and difficult which Malaysians do not want to take up.
As a result of the negative feedback from many Malaysians, the Government then announced a freeze on the intake of all foreign workers into the country. However, as the Memorandum of Understanding has already been signed, it is very likely that this is merely a temporary measure to calm the masses.
There are many reasons why the plan has been opposed. To some, in the current uncertain economic climate, it would be better if these jobs are given to local youths. Although it is probably true that many do not want to take up these 3D jobs, they may do so if the wages are higher and if the job market in other sectors become too crowded.
There are also those who say that instead of bringing in new workers, the Government should instead allow the many refugees and undocumented migrants already in the country to take them up instead.
There are also those who are suspicious of the Government’s plan. Are the 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers being brought in for the purpose of the next general election, they ask. Or is it a way for people to profit from the levy that will be imposed on these new workers?
Whatever the reasons, the disquiet of the masses is understandable. There are many questions that have arisen as a result of the Government’s plans. Questions which, characteristically for this administration, remains unanswered. On the contrary, the Government’s responses have instead caused more anger.
At the same time, we are seeing the ugly side of Malaysians. Malaysians who normally speak up against racism and bigotry amongst fellow Malaysians have turned to racism, xenophobia and prejudice when it comes to the issue of foreign workers.
For example, there was a recent post on social media about how a Nepali allegedly sexually assaulted his wife. The incident is being used as an “example” of how foreign workers are destroying the fabric of our Malaysian society.
If indeed a Nepali person did do that, there is absolutely no reason why we should say that all Nepali persons are threats. Or for that matter, that all migrant workers are criminals in hiding.
There are also non-governmental organisations which claim that foreign workers come to the country and threaten the security and health of locals; bringing with them “diseases”, “social ills”, “foreign culture” and promote terrorist ideologies – claims which are unsubstantiated by any shred of evidence. In fact, it has been repeatedly shown that the vast majority of crimes in the country are committed by Malaysians, not foreigners.
Most foreign workers who come to Malaysia do so to find work, not to cause problems for us. In fact, logically it would make little sense for them to come here to cause problems, as then they would be unwelcome by us.
When Donald Trump makes outrageous comments about Muslims “causing problems” in the United States and suggests that Muslims should be banned from the country, we get angry and we tell him that he is wrong.
When right wing parties in Europe point to an incident in Cologne, Germany where around 1,000 women were sexually assaulted by “Arab looking men” and say that this proves that immigrants bring problems to Europe, we say that they should not make such gross generalisations of Arab/Middle Eastern/migrants.
Yet, at the same time, we are using the very same language used by people such as Geert Wilders, UKIP and other extreme right wing politicians and political parties in the West when it comes to the issue of foreigners.
We are echoing the language used by Donald Trump. What moral authority now do we then have to tell Trump that he is wrong?
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.