The new ruling was imposed as an “administrative punishment” after a series of crimes and fights involving rowdy native Sabahans and Sarawakians in the republic.
It is learnt that several high profile murders involving Sarawakians and Sabahans in Ang Mo Kio Avenue, Kallang, and also Geylang in recent years have contributed towards the stricter regulations.
The new ruling has caused much difficulties to law-abiding Sabahan and Sarawakian native men, mainly unskilled and odd-job workers to work on the island.
Fresh workers below 35 were barred entry while those within that age group and already working there could not renew their work permits after they expire within two years.
Gagasan Dayak Iban Bersatu Malaysia (GAIU) president Sai Malaka said although the ruling was not made official by the Singapore Manpower Ministry (MOM), all work permit applications by native men from Sabah and Sarawak below the age of 35 were automatically rejected.
“I feel that this measure is very extreme and discriminatory towards native Sabahans and Sarawakians,” he said.
Sai added that Sarawakian and Sabahan men were skilled workers especially in the oil and gas sector, fabrication and factory maintenance.
He said since the ruling took effect, many Sarawakians and Sabahans who were unable to work in Singapore had opted to work in factories in Johor, particularly around Pasir Gudang.
“Luckily the government is developing the oil and gas hub in Pengerang near here. The project is now providing much needed work for these unemployed workers,” he told The Star yesterday.
State Unity, Human Resource, Science, Technology and Innovation Committee chairman M. Asojan said that he was also aware of the issue and urged Sabahans and Sarawakians who were unable to get into Singapore to take up the 42,000 jobs available in the various industries in Johor.
Meanwhile, a spokesman from MOM confirmed that Singapore had tightened the policies governing the hiring and retention of foreign manpower in the last few years to moderate the growth of foreign work force as well as to promote productivity-driven economic growth.
He said that foreign manpower from all sources were required to meet various criteria to be eligible for work passes.
“We will continue to approve or renew the work passes of workers from Sabah and Sarawak who are found to be eligible and suitable to work in Singapore,” said the spokesman.
Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk Md Hussin Nayan said that during the elections in Singapore, one of the issues raised was over the high number of foreign workers there and the government had taken steps to address the matter by minimising the intake of unskilled workers.
By NELSON BENJAMIN