Government's incompetent handling of MoU with Indonesia will hurt our large corporations and inconvenience all Malaysians

Image by Reuters

News that the Indonesian ambassador said his Government will immediately freeze the sending of migrant workers to Malaysia has rattled many employers who were all rejoicing when the MoU was signed in April, to facilitate migrant workers from Indonesia.

This Malaysian government has created history, in which a high-level MoU has collapsed in the shortest period after being signed. The irresponsible, callous and non-observing of the terms of MoU, will tarnish our reputation and hurt the economy.

One of the pertinent issues agreed in the MoU was the stipulation that the hiring of workers would go through the One Channel System introduced under the MoU to protect the welfare of domestic workers. Further the MoU also states that  Immigration Department's Maid Online System (MOS) in the recruitment of domestic maids by Malaysia would be done away with. Indonesia has always taken great objections to MOS and in 2019 to 2020 meetings between the PH Government and Indonesia, we were in total agreement to stop the usage of  MOS, which was an abuse in the recruitment of domestic workers as many who got jobs through the system reported issues of forced labour. 

Thus the PH government was in no hesitation to agree to do away with the MOS. But the Sheraton Move did not allow us time to sign that MoU.

There is an acute shortage of workers in all sectors of the economy especially in the 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous and difficult).

For example, the plantation sector requires at least 150,000 workers urgently. Due to the shortage of workers, oil palm fruits are not harvested within the time and eventually the fruit goes bad and thus there is a loss of over RM28 billion a year. 

Compared to any other industries, the plantation Industry has continuously churned out profit for the nation, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. The present government has lost all business values, as it fails to assist in allowing the flow of labourers from Indonesia. Apparently Indonesian labourers are the best in and very competent at work in the plantation industry.

By violating the MoU that was signed, it also serves as a bane to our largest corporations that are working to clean up their supply chain and be free of forced labour. By the nation's actions, it will once again put the scrutiny on our practices and the possible existence of forced labour elements.

What was more shocking was that the Minister of Human Resources saying he will have an urgent meeting to discuss this predicament with the Home Minister. It's shocking to note both Ministers could not find time to meet when they are Co-chair on labour issues and meet at least once a week during Cabinet meetings. In fact, their offices are just a minute walk from each other!

Isn’t  there enough time during these meetings to discuss the MoU and its progress? Or is the Home Minister and the Labour Minister not bothered about the MoU and the direct sufferings to the plantation industry and other business? 

How long will it take to "hold talks" when our industries are suffering huge losses as a result of the government's incompetence on the matter? 

Parliament starts its sitting on the 18th July.  As there have been conflicting stories of what actually transpired and issues are very serious from human rights, economic and diplomatic standpoints, it would be best if the Home Minister and Human Resources Minister explain in detail in a no holes barred statement as per 14(1) (i) of the Standing orders. Time should be given for MPs to question these Ministerial statements.

Now the whole economy will suffer if the freeze in sending migrant workers to Malaysia is not lifted immediately. I suggest the Home Ministry stop being recalcitrant and do what has been agreed in the MoU.

M. Kula Segaran, MP Ipoh Barat

14th July 2022