I concur with Daim Zainuddin that vested interests “hijacked” the federal government policies on migrant workers during the tenure of the Pakatan Harapan administration, indirectly causing today’s problems with handling foreign workers.
Daim said that the failure to deal with illegal foreign workers in the past had led to problems in managing the Covid-19 pandemic among foreign workers and undocumented migrants, which had led to a spate of xenophobia.
As Minister of Human Resources, I initiated a transparent Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management that was headed by former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Yunus. The committee was sanctioned by Cabinet, to study the issue.
I had stated many times and even to the Press that the committee was tasked with studying the issue and coming up with the recommendations in a report that will be made public.
This led to the publishing a comprehensive report which included 40 recommendations that I presented to Cabinet for deliberation. There was even a special sitting of cabinet just to discuss the foreign workers issues. Thereafter, Cabinet set up a committee headed by the Chief Secretary to the Government (KSN) to suggest how the recommendations/proposal should be implemented.
Among the core recommendations of the Independent Committee were for the establishment of the Ministry of Human Resources as the single authority for the management of all foreign workers.
Further, it stipulated the development of an end – to- end single online system for recruitment of foreign labour. Another recommendation is to impose a maximum of 10 years for continuous hire of a foreign worker. Regularization of all undocumented workers with a flexible amnesty programme along with meaningful access to justice where necessary.
The most significant implementation was the abolishment of the Outsourcing License for foreign labour supply. This would bring an end to third-party service providers or agents which are thought to be the main obstacle for foreign workers management reforms.
The report included other bold proposals that would have made the management of foreign workers transparent.
In February 2019, we even met with then the Home Affairs Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to discuss the proposals made.
As far as I know I did my duty to hand over the independent report to the Cabinet.
Although there was pressure from many “individuals” on the management of foreign workers, I believed that the recommendations from the Special Independent Committee would be the best way forward and did not consider changing my stance.
Not a single proposal of the said report has been implemented to date.
This led to certain individuals making complaints to the Prime Minister but I did not waiver as I was representing the interest of Malaysians.
On 5 December 2019, I also answered a question posed in Dewan Rakyat by Lanang MP Alice Lau Kiong on the Report. I explained that “the Cabinet had agreed to form a Special Committee between MOHR and KDN to study the management of foreign workers”. I told the Dewan that Dato’ Seri Hishamudin
bin Mohd Yunus was appointed to lead and many town hall sessions were carried out before recommendations were tabulated in a Report.
I then told the Dewan that until this point, there was no decision by Cabinet to make the report public but it would be allowed to be used by Universities and colleges for research.
This information can be found stated in the Dewan Rakyat Hansard.
The Home Ministry has a long history of managing foreign workers that has led to entrenched interest that would not readily give up its privileges, what more if it involves lucrative deals or doing away with relationships that has been cultivated over the years.
We would not have the problem of illegal workers in this country if the Home Ministry had been firm, transparent and corrupt free in the management of foreign workers.
In addition to the above MOHR had imposed the compulsory contribution of SOCSO for foreign workers, which would help to reflect the actual data of legal foreign workers, in the country.
In Asia, the Management of Foreign Worker Management is handled by the Ministry of Human Resources. Only in Malaysia, this exercise is being controlled and managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Particularly, the issuance of quotas and work Permits.
The Covid-19 amongst the foreign workers is largely a symptom of neglect and it’s time for the Home Ministry to hand over the management of foreign workers to the Human Resources Ministry.
Therefore, I would like to urge all parties concerned and the current Government to adhere to the recommendations of the Independent Committee on foreign workers management.
The report should be made public.