KOTA KINABALU, June 16 — Dhaka and Putrajaya jointly agreed to a limit of 25 agencies to recruit Bangladeshi workers for Malaysia, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan told critics and rivals today.

He said it was the prerogative of the source country to decide on how many agencies should be approved to recruit workers for foreign countries, and Malaysia already had its quota increased from 10 previously to 25 now.

“When I had met the Bangladeshi prime minister, he agreed on 25. The ministers had agreed on 25. So why are our Malaysian MPs jumping now?” a visibly upset Saravanan said.

Saravanan said that a management team had vetted over 1,500 agencies and selected the 25 based on a set of criteria agreed upon by both countries.

"It’s not one person that chooses. If it is one person, then we have to go to the MACC and someone will go to jail,” he said, referring to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

The minister also noted that Malaysia has increased the number of recruitment agencies when Singapore has cut this down to six from 14 previously while Hong Kong had whittled the figure to below 10.

Saravanan said he could not divulge the specific details and selection method directly to the press but would be ready to disclose this to lawmakers in Parliament.

“Tell the parliamentarian they can raise any question in Parliament; that’s the right place so the whole world can listen. And it’s recorded, rather than raise it in social media,” he said angrily.

Saravanan’s remarks appeared to be aimed at Klang MP Charles Santiago and two migrant worker advocacy groups that previously asked the minister to respond to allegations that a syndicate would control the 25 agencies.

Among others, they said the number of agencies appeared arbitrary and argued that open competition would prevent possible abuse and monopoly.

Today, Saravanan appeared to suggest that his critics had ulterior motives in challenging him on the limit.

“I think everybody has got vested interest. Why are they suddenly speaking for agents from Bangladesh? Why don’t they advise Singapore to take the 1,500 (agencies),” he said.

He said Malaysia did not want a repeat of 2008 when recruitment agencies were freely involved and over 100,000 Bangladeshis ended up being stranded in Malaysia.

On the proposal to let refugees and undocumented migrants work legally in Malaysia to ease the current labour shortage, Saravanan said it was a “very stupid idea” that would encourage more unlawful entry.

“If someone is in your country illegally, you must deport them, not legalise them. If somebody come into the country illegally and you legalise them, that means more illegals will come thinking they can be legal. We shouldn’t be doing any activities to encourage them,” he said.