KOTA KINABALU September 11, 2012: The decision by Singapore to “punish” workers from Sabah and Sarawak has been described as “harsh and unfair”.
Assistant Resource Development and Information Technology Minister Datuk Jainab Ahmad, Parti Bersatu Sabah deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili and Sabah Malaysian Trades Union Congress criticised the new ruling, urging the republic to withdraw or review it.
They were commenting on Singapore’s decision to ban male natives from Sabah and Sarawak below 35 from working in the island republic after a series of crimes and fights involving them in the republic.
Jainab said Singapore’s insensitivity to put a negative generic label on all young East Malaysians had hurt the feelings of more than just the affected workers.
“The decision to impose a blanket punishment is very unfair. It is basically a very inaccurate generalization against young Sabahans and Sarawakians, as if to say that all of them are unworthy workers who tend to get involved in crime and violence,” she said.
Dr Ongkili, who is also Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, said the new ruling was unfair as “it punishes everyone for the fault of a few”.
“I believe the crimes and fights involving natives from Sabah and Sarawak are isolated cases or small in number. There could be factors why the fights involved those from Sabah and Sarawak, including being provoked by others.
“What we do know is that most of the problems faced by Sabah native workers working away from home arise from them undergoing pressure due to being cheated by agents, their undesirable working conditions and being under-paid,” he said.
Ongkili said it was unfair to label all of them as troublemakers when most of them were good workers and law abiding.
As such, he urged the Singapore authorities to drop or review the policy decision.
“On our side, we need to educate our youths also. One habit to stay away from is drinking which could lead to fights, as well as not to be lured into taking drugs,” he said.
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has yet to make the increased age limit official but all work permit applications by workers below the new minimum age would be automatically rejected.
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.
by Murib Morpi and Sandra Sokial