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Waytha: Industries should use locals, or ship out

Waytha: Industries should use locals, or ship out

 | February 15, 2016

Putrajaya was supposed to bring 850,000 displaced estate workers and 350,000 stateless persons in the peninsula into the labour force under the RM4.5 billion Hindraf-BN MOU.

P Waytha Moorthy

KOTA KINABALU: Low-end and middle-end industries in Malaysia should either use local workers or shift abroad to labour surplus countries, said Hindraf Makkal Sakthi Chairman P. Waythamoorthy. “In the US, for example, the consumer industries keep shifting to China. They don’t import Chinese workers.”

“US factories at home can, of course, employ locals but they find that workers in China are much cheaper to employ.”
Human rights advocate Daniel John Jambun, in echoing Waytha, warned that Malaysia will never get out of the “middle income” trap if it continues to rely on unskilled foreign labour and must take a leaf from the US for example. “We must train our people so that we can move up the value chain,” said Jambun, President of the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim), a human rights and Borneo rights NGO.

Waytha, a senior lawyer in private practice and also a human rights advocate, was referring like Jambun to the growing controversy over the Home Ministry’s plans to allow the entry of 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh over the next three years. “Under the RM4.5 billion Hindraf-Barisan Nasional (BN) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2013, Putrajaya was supposed to bring 850,000 displaced estate workers and 350,000 stateless persons in the peninsula into the labour force.”

Instead, lamented Waytha, the Federal Government was more interested in importing foreign labour because they can rake in revenue from levy while the local manpower agencies, all politically-connected, collect hefty fees from these unfortunate foreigners. “This is a violation of the human rights of not only Malaysian workers but also the foreign labour.”

Waytha, briefly a Senator and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, and Jambun were also commenting on Sandakan MP and DAP Sabah Chairman Stephen Wong urging Putrajaya on Sunday to shift the 1.2 million illegal immigrants in Sabah to the peninsula instead of bringing in the Bangladeshis. “He’s right. Why bring in the Bangladeshis when the plight of these unfortunate people in Sabah remains unresolved,” said Waytha and Jambun. “Since the illegals cannot be regularized and legalized in Sabah, shifting them to the peninsula would help bring closure to the plight of these people.”

“The Federal Government must come out with a definite policy statement on the illegals in Sabah and social problems created by the influx of foreign labour, for example the Mat Bangla phenomenon not so long ago.”

In any case, said the Hindraf Chief, both the illegal immigrants in Sabah and the would-be workers in Bangladesh are equally far away from the peninsula. “The displaced estate workers and the stateless persons are right here at home in the peninsula, they are not on our doorsteps, but right under our noses.”

“Any civilized nation would not ignore the plight of their people. Charity begins at home.”

Waytha conceded that Putrajaya may have followed procedures in agreeing to allow the entry of the over one million Bangladeshi workers. However, he cautioned, the issue in conflict was not procedures but whether there was procedural fairness. “Unfortunately, unlike in England for example, our courts are not interested in the merits of judicial review cases but will strike them out on the grounds that the government had complied with procedures.”

Waytha, in summing up, was spelling out the futility of taking the imminent influx of the Bangladeshis to court for judicial review. “The courts are blinkered.”

“There’s no rule of law. We are not governed by the Federal Constitution but by the courts being in cahoots with the powers-that-be on administrative laws (government policies in action).”