KUCHING, Feb 18 — The Sarawak Division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today called on the state government to priority to improving integrity, reducing corruption and to ensure that wealth is equitably shared by all Sarawakians.
Its secretary Andrew Lo said the creation of decent jobs must be the priority of the state government.
“Otherwise the 40 Sarawakian youths would not be the last to believe that countries like Cambodia offer better opportunities than Sarawak. They may even believe that Myanmar, Bangladesh and Somalia are better,” he said.
Lo was responding to the arrest of 47 Malaysians, including 40 from Sarawak in Cambodia for their alleged involvement in illegal online gambling on December 11 last year.
However, the Malaysian authorities said the 47 were scammed by a syndicate which promised them with high paying jobs in Cambodia.
The Malaysians returned home yesterday after the state government delegation successfully negotiated with the Cambodian government to secure their release.
Lo said it was indeed embarrassing that Sarawakian youths believed that Cambodia offered better opportunities than Sarawak, saying that it was only in the 1970s that up to two million Cambodians died due to starvation, overwork and executions under the notorious Pol Pot regime.
He said the Sarawak MTUC had warned on multiple occasions that the inward looking policies of the state government had driven the people backwards.
“All these years of the so-called politics of development (started by former Chief Minister and current Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud in the 1980s) has not created any decent jobs in Sarawak,” he said, adding that 10 out of 17 poorest districts in Malaysia are in Sarawak.
He noted that for years, tens of thousands of Sarawak youths had been seeking better jobs outside Sarawak, in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and overseas.
“There will always be cases of workers duped by promises of better paying jobs overseas, especially in more economically advanced countries, but Cambodia?” he asked.
He also noted that there are 29 ministers and assistant ministers in the state government, but none of them is responsible for human resources.
Lo said human resources development is key to the progress of the state and Sarawakians, saying that there is a need to create a skilled workforce, propel human capital development and to address long standing issues on foreign workers, labour productivity, job empowerment, industrial relations and to develop a holistic blueprint of our human capital needs.
“They blame Putrajaya for a lack of development. But is it just the fault of Putrajaya?” he asked.
On labour, he said it was only after almost 50 years that the hopelessly outdated Sarawak Labour Ordinance was amended to provide basic rights for workers only in 2008.
“It has not been amended since as the state government insists any amendments must have its agreement,” he said.
He added the minimum wage was lower in Sarawak simply because employers in the state have been paying much lower wages for the past five decades.
He said it was only this year that the federal government implemented a uniform minimum wage rate for the whole country.