Our failed migrant labour policy

By Tunku Aziz

Corruption and gross inefficiency make for a lethal concoction. In Malaysia everything that goes wrong is traceable to either one or both of these factors, and we Malaysians do not have far to cast our eye to see examples of enforcement that have gone awry.

Everywhere we go in Malaysia, in urban centres as well as remote rural hamlets, we see foreigners in our midst toiling away day and night at jobs that Malaysians won’t touch with a long barge pole.

It is clear that these people, the overwhelming majority are illegal, are performing a useful economic function, and it is equally obvious that we cannot do without them, such is their penetration into virtually every aspect of Malaysian life. Why, then, don’t we look the problem in the face and do something right by both the country and these illegals who are here for the long haul?

My greatest concern is the ever present threat posed by many of them to security and public order. The large concentrations of illegal Indonesians are a matter of real concern given their known propensity for criminal activities, including armed robberies. The police are doing the best they can, but the rising crime rates are signs pointing to their failure to keep serious crimes under control, in spite of protestations to the contrary by the IGP.

It is not that they do not know the cause of the problem, but they are reduced to merely treating the symptoms because of conflicting ministerial policies. With millions of people from all over Asia who have overstayed their welcome, we persist with the utterly mindless facility of granting visas on arrival to all and sundry.

I once saw a gaggle of bedraggled South Asian “tourists” swarming over an immigration counter for their right of entry under our tourism promotion campaign. Anyone who was not blind could see that Malaysia Truly Asia was a million miles from their minds.

I know that tourism is important to our economy, but what we are implementing is tantamount to an open door policy, particularly in light of a very real terrorist threat to internal, and by extension, global peace and security. Our VOA policy has earned us the kind of notoriety that we need like a hole in the head.

We are seen by human traffickers, drug smugglers, and assorted terrorists in transit as corrupt and flexible in our official transactions. “Malaysia Boleh” of the Mahathir era was not the Freudian slip that we thought. It was a true reflection of “anything goes” in our country. This is what has dragged Malaysia to its current position in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.

We are perceived as a country where corruption in the public service has intruded into every level of officialdom. We may not agree with the verdict of the international community on our moral rectitude or as far as our corrupt behaviour is concerned, because it is argued by the practitioners of corruption among us that these are nothing more than perceptions.

What they forget is that while perceptions may not have any basis in fact, they are real and do influence and cloud the thinking of overseas decision makers.

Tinkering around the edges of our failed immigration policy on foreign labour is not the answer. We have to make a conscious political decision to legalise those who are already here by registering them and giving them a two year stay, renewable subject to conditions. At least in this way we know who they are. Those who are not registered will be regarded as illegal and appropriate action will then be taken.

There must be a more orderly way of dealing with this very important national issue because by leaving matters as they are, they are not going to go away. If we have a proper system of foreign worker registration, we will reduce police harassment and extortion, common complaints by these illegal workers.

We have had instances of illegal workers under detention fighting the police and other enforcement officers because they are fed up with the continual acts of extortion. The police should set up a special undercover unit to monitor police operations against these illegals to make sure that human rights abuses do not take place.

An all party parliamentary committee should be established to study the issues involved and make appropriate recommendations for implementation.

  1. #1 by OrangRojak on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 9:27 am

    [of whom] the overwhelming majority are illegal
    Our VOA [(Visa On Arrival)] policy …

    I’m not sure about the police setting up undercover units to monitor the police… wouldn’t something more Independent – or even an environment more conducive to investigative journalism – be more likely to work? It’s obvious that Malaysia needs to pay some attention to its immigration policy and machinery.

    It would be only fair to acknowledge the special circumstances of South East Asia with regards to the number and proximity of undesirable origins, and the relative survivability of marine ventures. Immigration is going to continue to be a bugbear of any administration.

  2. #2 by HJ Angus on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 10:11 am

    Overall our migrant policy sucks!
    Firstly government policies do not encourage qualified Malaysians to remain as citizens.
    Then our industrial programs only depend on the import of semi-skilled workers.
    With more than 500 citizens leaving each day, the economic outlook is indeed bleak.
    Not to forget the ongoing plunder of the nation’s coffers.

  3. #3 by johnnypok on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 11:16 am

    Malaya will become part of Indon, Sabah become a colony of the Phillipines.

    Sarawak, Brunei and Singapore form a new nation.

  4. #4 by Kasim Amat on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 1:42 pm

    I think Lim Kit Siang is trying to provoke a race senstive issue here by, first, saying that the country is purposedly driving away good brains and second, he referred these good brains to Chinese and Indians. What he was implying is that all the people left behind in this country, mainly Malays and other native people are not good and the country is going to collapse if this continue to happen. Lim Kit Siang, by implying this, is saying that the Malays and the natives are all mediocre people and only Chinese and Indians are good. This is a very serious insult to the Malays and the natives people and our leaders in UMNO.

    In fact, Malaysia is not in short of talents. We have enough lawyers, doctors and engineers. Please go checkout all the top talents in Petronas if you are in doubt. Even a lot of people left the countries, they left because they want to leave and it is not because the country make them leave. In exchange, we have also attracted many talents from all over the world such as the Arab countries, UK, US, Indonesia and the Philippines. Please stop the thinking that all those leaving the countries are talents and all those that remain are stupid. Malaysia can never be more peaceful and harmonoius without these people leaving the country. We just can’t stop everyone to leave. This is their choice. This is a very wrong and vicious thinking. DAP should go for training and upgrade their level further.

  5. #5 by Godfather on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 1:56 pm

    My former AP business partner Kasim Amat is at it again. Kasim, go read “Origin of species” by Charles Darwin, and try to understand why you UMNOputras are so keen on being a big fish in a small pond – which then inevitably leads to extinction because your gene pool becomes smaller and smaller. But if I know Kasim Amat, reading Charles Darwin would make him go into a tailspin….

  6. #6 by pwcheng on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 2:08 pm

    I concur with Tunku fully on your write up on “Our failed migrant labor policy” From my various encounters with the employers and their employees and foreign men/women on the street I think there could be millions of illegal immigrants swarming in the country. Entry to them is so simple whether through legal or illegal means. If through illegal means they just need to pay some money to the taikoh who apparently has the right connections to see them landing safely on the Malaysian soil. Legally, what they need is a social visit pass and once they are here 90% of them will lapse and will end up as illegal and these are fodders of opportunity for the enforcement scoundrels to exploit them and that is why some of them will take it out from some innocent Malaysian either for survival or to settle a score.
    What catches on my mind is: Is the BN government not aware of all these happening right under their nose. Is it that they do not know or they don’t want to know so as to allow their running boys to make some extra money?
    Just walk into any shops of any business, hawker center, market, small factories, wholesalers and retailers, etc, and you will be almost 100% certain that you will find at least an illegal working there. Even some have the tenacity to operate their stalls along some walkways or roadside.
    Sometimes the excuse is the enforcement is powerless to act as it involves too many agencies. The Question is why can’t the government set up a coordinating body to oversee this and put their act together.
    Honestly this gives me the impression that the government is providing opportunities for their running boys, big and small to make some fast bucks and this is the same in almost all the other government sectors, whereby the procedures and environment are made conducive for corruption to happen. I for one can give many examples of these and some are already in my blog regarding DBKL. (www.towardsgoodgovernance.blogspot.com), to substantiate what I said I will be putting more in my blog in due course. However to be fair to DBKL I think they have improved. I think it does help if more of these can be exposed and as I had mentioned before the cancer is at stage 3 bordering on stage 3 and if do not do anything now we are heading for disaster. We have to act fast and hope more will be there to lend a helping hand to come out with constructive criticism and we must thank our Tunku Aziz for that.

  7. #7 by pwcheng on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 2:12 pm

    Errata: the cancer is at stage 3 bordering on stage 3 should read as the cancer is at stage 2 bordering on stage 3

  8. #8 by carboncopy on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 2:21 pm

    Kasim Amat :
    I think Lim Kit Siang is trying to provoke a race senstive issue here by, first, saying that the country is purposedly driving away good brains and second, he referred these good brains to Chinese and Indians. What he was implying is that all the people left behind in this country, mainly Malays and other native people are not good and the country is going to collapse if this continue to happen. Lim Kit Siang, by implying this, is saying that the Malays and the natives are all mediocre people and only Chinese and Indians are good. This is a very serious insult to the Malays and the natives people and our leaders in UMNO.

    Since when did Uncle Kit ever says those leaving are Chinese and Indians or even imply as such?

    When did Uncle Kit ever says good brains are Chinese and Indians?

    Show your proof Kasim Amat!

    Brain drain is truly a Malaysian problem. Its colour blind and creed blind. Best of the best regardless of race and creed have left Malaysia since the 60s.

  9. #9 by johnnypok on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 2:29 pm

    A classic example of how stupid a person like Mr. Ka Sim can be.

  10. #10 by taiking on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 2:57 pm

    “A child needs proper nutrition to grow” doctor said exasperatingly to parents. “Not faeces!”

    … sometimes basic sense too can go missing!

  11. #11 by pwcheng on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 3:36 pm

    I think all of us has a job to do. We are all here to make Malaysia a better place for all Malaysians, but for Kassim Amat he is here to make a better place for Malays, probably not knowing that he is also a victim of UMNOnisation unless he has eaten so many ripe cherries without planting it, with compliments from UMNO. We respect each others view and hope we can agree to disagree.
    We can argue until the cow comes home but at the end of the day we want a good leader who can make changes for the good of the people. China will not be what is today if not for Teng Shiao Peng and probably Russia or even Germany will be be what is today if not for Gobachav, and Singapore will not be what is today if not for LKY.
    We hope we can have the same good leders as from records the past leaders having the same mental block policies has proven to be stumblimg blocks for our progress and we hope any policy changes must reflect on the well being of all Malaysians. Well of course some will agree with me and some will not. Thats how life is.

  12. #12 by Comrade on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 3:56 pm

    My advice to Kasim Amat who wrote like an idiot is “Look before you leap.”

  13. #13 by frankyapp on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 4:12 pm

    Even a child knows to hide his wrong doing.hence calling to set up an all party parlimentary committee to investigate Umnoputra’s evil doing is hopeless. My suggestion to Tunku is,PR,right now,starting a national campaign to help and enlightening the rakyat,the evil that Umno/Bn have inflicted on the them ie the widespread of corruption is bankrupting the country and the people.That corruption must be addressed now right to the source and that source is Umnoputras and it’s cronies.PR must lead ,set good example to assist the rakyat to rid off this evil thing.Hence it’s time now for PR to buck up,less talk and walk the talk.

  14. #14 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 4:25 pm

    This problem is not so much of our skilled and talented labour exiting as part of brain drain. It is more of Malaysian attitude. Locals are not prepared to work in factories, eateries, and domestic help and construction industry for the pay of foreigners. Compounding the problem is corruption and human exploitation. Here the entrepreneur pays the Home Affairs/Immigration authorities upfront the official levy for workers as well as visas, and then under-counter as well. He has to defray the outlay for housing and feeding the workers on embarkation here; he has to pay foreign recruiter if not local one collaborating with foreign one. He marks up his profit on top of everyone’s cut. He sees the Employee and makes an arrangement that the Employer gets the worker in exchange for deduction from monthly salary of foreign worker until 1 or 2 years later it is sufficient to recoup the cost of bringing him in. At the end of it all, the foreign worker is left only with RM40 to RM600 (in some cases) a month to survive. He prowls the streets and homes at night if he could to augment and eke out a bare survival for food/medical expenses. What has got to lose? If he were killed when scaffolding in a building collapses who will miss him? Those who are “illegals” are also targeted. If they are caught they are sent to over crowded detention camps where no one cares if one were sodomised, or went down with HINI or HIV. If they otherwise roam the streets and were stopped by the authorities, they have to pay a lot to avoid being sent to these detention camps. It would be more than what one would have to pay for a traffic offence. Hence they are a source of illicit income to many here, not to mention legitimate income from their cheap labour in their work. As always if one wants to address the problem one has to deal with those having vested interests in profiteering from this deluge of foreign workers. It is big bucks involved here. And we’re not even factoring the other class of “human traffickers, drug smugglers, and assorted terrorists in transit”.

  15. #15 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 7:04 pm

    B grateful that there r migrant workers, legal or illegal, doing d dirty work in M’sia
    Who toil in oil palm plantations, construction sites, hawker centres, homes?

  16. #16 by pwcheng on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 11:00 pm

    Mr. Boh Liao I think you miss a point here. Gratefulness is a 2 sided affair . He gives us his hard labor and he gets paid for his effort on an agreed term. Similarly why should we be grateful to the shopkeeper who sell us his goods as he gets paid for it, it is only when he supply the goods free then it will exert some form of gratefulness. Anyway that is out of the topic here. We are more interested in the ruckus created by a few that affected many.
    Jeffery had aptly pointed out some reasons for the failure of the migrant policy. .He obviously knows certain intricacies of the workings of these clumsy policy of Foreign workers, but what I am not sure is whether he knows how horrendous is corruption going on in this big boys game. I fully agree with Irene Fernandes that the outsourcing agency plays a big part in our foreign workers fiasco. What is supposed to be only a few, ended up to more than 200 licensed companies. These license do not come cheap, probably around RM400,000.and with that I do not need to elaborate why it mushroomed to a few hundred. It is definitely a lucrative business to make a few Govt officers becoming rich overnight. On the other side of the coin, subsequently with such huge capital outlay, tell me what these outsourcing co will not do in order to recoup their capital at the fastest pace. It will be foolish to say that they will play the game with kid’s gloves and according to the rules of the game. It will also be outrageously stupid if they do not become unscrupulous and will treat human as human. Obviously all these need inside help and with these help, they are allowed to bring in hundreds of them without going through proper procedures and of course all the risks will be passed on to the workers who will sell whatever they can get hold of. Unfortunately some landed here without any job and has to sleep under bridges ( hundreds of Bangladeshis are caught in this catch 22 situation a few years ago) Sad to say ultimately the government has to carry the baby and it is our tax money that will be spent to feed the hungry workers and also to send them home, where else the culprit got unscathed. Have you ever heard of anyone getting penalized for the wrongdoings. Obviously all these guys had strong connections inside. If they make it is their profit and if they failed it’s our losses. So virtually they are immortal and will never become extinct but instead will continue to fester .
    Needless to say with inside support it is no wonder they can execute with finesse and slither with dexterity and inconspicuously. Call it a double whammy. It is a zero sum game. One man makes all, with exception of some generous distributions to those well connected. The country, the rakyat and the workers are the losers or suckers if you like the term. The country gets a bad image, the rakyat has to foot the bills when there is a failure by the company and the workers has to slave e it out without adequate compensation and ultimately turned himself into a criminal to make ends meet and ultimately the people becomes the victim, maimed or rigor mortis.

  17. #17 by pwcheng on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 - 11:10 pm

    Continue from above.

    So the game goes on and unlike the musical chair there will be enough of seats for all participants and nobody will be disqualified but when the time is right more will sprout.

  18. #18 by House Victim on Thursday, 3 December 2009 - 1:29 am

    Have any Policy been successful in Malaysia?
    ————————————–The key points are many of them are up for the sake of a short-term view. Their existence does not integrated with the overall, implemented or enforced by all concerned.

    Those departments concerned are using that as a means of getting more processing fee. And, worse of all a means for those officials concerned to earn extra money. They are not oversee by any Independent and competent authorities.

    Basically, it is a problem of lacking of planning, enforcement with CORRUPTION and abusing of Human Rights or Laws!!- A GENERAL SYMPTOM in most of the Government Offices and the society are also looking it with dollar sense only!

    The People have no Rights to change it!! Human Rights had never been respected in any way in Malaysia!! Breach of Duty is just a daily meal to those who have power and the obligation to perform!!

    The Bottom line, a Government with NO Genuine Mind to improve for the Sake of the People but for their cronies!!

    The Constitutions and the Laws are not there to make the Government improve but allowing ill-performance to exist.

    Such as why can’t ill-performing Judges be expunged or bad lawyers be out of the rolls with high efficient disciplinary proceeding? Politic rather than necessity or performance has better priority in Malaysia!!
    Bad judges are transferred and not expunged even they did not exercise justice and they are still in the Juridical Committee!!

  19. #19 by rubini on Thursday, 3 December 2009 - 1:34 am

    Every country in the world has migrant policy. Ours started in the late 1980’s to support construction industry, then maids were needed, then garbage collecters were needed, then security guards were needed, then robbers/killers/smugglers/human traffickers/terrorist were needed?

    At RM7K – 10K per work visa, i would also not stop the gravy train.
    What was Human Resource / Education / Home Affairs / Works / Science & Technology / Finance Ministries were doing the last 52 years. Sleeping :(((.

    Manpower requirement comes from long term planning which in turn goes back to Education.
    Each year RM7 – 8 billion are remitted to foreign countries. Malaysia has about 2.5 million foreign workers (all included).

    Did anyone consider impact on our society? 2009 malaysian economy contracted by average 5 percent, still we are keeping the foreigners?

    How many trade skills schoold were established? How many midlevel skills personnel can the government produce yearly?

    Introducing minimum wage & tradesmen wage would have required many people to improve the quality of managing business.

    Giving tax incentives for automation would have reduced the need for labour. Taxing remittance would also have prohibited too much of outflow of capital.

    Most industrialist countries keep a cap on the number of foreign workers.

    Unfortunately Malaysia’s policy of cheap labour has done the country great damage!

  20. #20 by monsterball on Thursday, 3 December 2009 - 5:41 am

    UMNO have trained Malays to be Landlords.
    Have trained to pray 5 times a day…to be all good.
    Have never found any loyal members…unproductive lazy and good for nothing.
    End result…you are lucky to see any government workers do a 3 hours proper work..yet if she/he does….produces not much results…so much red tapes.
    This is one way.to buy up the country…by buying up Malays..enjoying big salary…doing nothing….and make sure no one will question their rights….having all living in a fool’s dream life..until 12th GE….all exposed.
    Imagine…53 years…to keep feeding one who is 53 years old…..doing nothing.
    What will be end result?….half past sixes…lazy hypocrites……thousands of them..all UMNO members.
    These Muslims are the ones UMNO have really betrayed them.
    Now they suffer as much as others,.if not more.
    Will they do the right thing and vote UMNO out…so that their children cannot be fooled by UMNO ..like UMNO fooled them?

  21. #21 by trublumsian on Friday, 4 December 2009 - 6:00 am

    Argggh! Kasim amat is driving me crazy.

    Yo! Kiss-my-axx-mat! you have not answered my question!

    Why does 50 years of NEP for your 60% number result in so little you have to show for??

  22. #22 by HJ Angus on Friday, 4 December 2009 - 10:06 am

    The cheap labour policy was used to create the manufacturing base and it was quite successful in the 80s.
    The basic problem is the government did not have far-sighted program to move up the value-added chain as we do not have strategic thinkers.
    Small countries like Malaysia can benefit if we adopt many of the ideas that Singapore has (after all, many of the experts there are Malaysians).
    We don’t have much time to rectify things – building more trade/technical schools may develop the youth but we also need to create the jobs that the youth can apply for.
    I suggest one way to address the shortage of skills in Malaysia is to enforce the return of those scholarship holders who renege on their agreements.

  23. #23 by boh-liao on Friday, 4 December 2009 - 11:03 pm

    Sacrilegious – asking M’sia (small country!?) to copy d ideas of d little red dot (real small country)
    MMK will crucify u

  24. #24 by son of perpaduan on Saturday, 5 December 2009 - 8:01 pm

    Imigration dept very smart in making bucks, how an why? Do you know how much money this deparment making? Labor sourcing company paying to the imigration head department for bringing in per head. Then operasi catching them also making bucks too. So in another word, two way income…ohh not, it should be three ways income, and drama a little bit on the TV or newspaper telling malaysian their enforcement duty on catching illegals, right!

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