Decouple the Home Ministry from the recruitment of foreign workers — DAP task force on jobs & labour policy

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JANUARY 8 — The current Covid-19 crisis that triggered inspections at foreign workers’ dormitories that revealed poor hygienic conditions and cramped accommodation should not be merely seen in isolation as an employer negligence, but could be related to a deep-rooted systemic negligence over the years in giving the powerful Home Ministry the control in the influx of foreign workers. These conditions created the possibility of giving unqualified employers certain privileges in the recruitment of foreign workers. One could assume the possibility of systemic corruption, cronyism and abuse of power due to vested interest in the management of foreign workers within the Government and the private sector that has jeopardised the interest of Malaysian workers. 

The recent findings of the PAC report that indicates gross abuse of power on activities related to control of foreign workers should be a wake-up call for Malaysians to demand accountability on the part of the Home Ministry over the years for its failure to protect the interest of Malaysian workers.

The report spells out the gross extent of special applications approved for the admission of foreign workers into the country. For example, from 2016 to 2018, 512,315 special approvals were given in which 22,901 applications were from the frozen industry. The special approval of these applications has basically taken away jobs from Malaysians. Defying the normal procedures, out of 7,784 employers that received the special approvals only 1,036 had advertised through Jobs Malaysia portal. Did these employers who were approved by the Home Ministry comply with the requirement of providing decent accommodation for their foreign workers where the Human Resources Ministry is responsible before the workers arrive?    

The subsequent question is on what basis is a special approval for the recruitment of foreign workers carried out?  Why is the process clouded in secrecy? Why is there a necessity to accord special privileges to the Home Ministry in the recruitment of foreign workers when they are not in the major role and function in addressing human resources needs in the country?

One of my first acts as the Minister of Human Resources was to establish the special committee on foreign workers management which was headed by former court of appeal judge Datuk Seri Hisham Yunus. This committee had produced a report comprising 40 recommendations which also suggested doing away with special approvals.

To date the Government has not been serious in addressing the findings of the reports. 

Therefore, I urge the Perikatan Nasional Government to take necessary steps to decouple the Home Ministry from the function of the Human Resources Ministry to ensure that fraudulent practices of special recruitment approvals are abolished. This would help in providing employment opportunities for Malaysians and ensure that unqualified employers are not given access to foreign workers. 

The PAC report and the 40 recommendations of the special committee on foreign workers should be the basis for systemic reforms on the management of foreign workers.

* Media statement by M. Kulasegaran, former Minister of Human Resources and DAP Vice Chairman, on behalf of DAP Task Force on Jobs & Labour Policy, January 8, 2021.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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