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Soppoa calls for careful consideration on foreign workers freeze in plantations

Friday, 17 June 2011

KUCHING: Following the statement made by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong to start the programme of bleaching or pardoning illegal immigrants from July 1 onwards this year, Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) hopes the Home Ministry would reconsider the freeze on recruitment.

In a recent statement, the secretary of Soppoa, Philip Ho, welcomed the action of the Home Ministry by being proactive in weeding out illegal immigrants through the 6P amnesty programme which used biometric system to track all foreigners entering and leaving the country.

“However, the main concern for oil palm planters is that the shortage of workers is already acute in Sarawak and with these further actions, there is fear that the situation will further deteriorate and strain the state’s income and economy in the long run,” said Ho.

“If the authorities stopped issuing applications for new work visas during the amnesty period to sort out illegal workers in the country, this will jeopardise our plans and forecast as plantations have already made arrangements for more workers in view of the expanding oil palm acreage here.”

Soppoa believed that while the 6P programme was being implemented, the process of bringing in foreign workers could carry on as usual as these new recruits would be passing through the system and being registered which was aligned with the aim of the programme.

According to Ho, Sarawak suffered from a dire shortage of workers in the plantation sector and such sudden course of actions by the authorities will result in many plantations facing problems with shortage of workers.

In a situation without sufficient workers, work would slow down and collections as well as processing would decline which would mean a decrease of income for the industry as well as for the government as taxes would also decline.

Additionally, the freeze would also negatively affect The Performance Management and Delivery Unit’s (Pemandu) Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) efforts to boost the national economy as many industries would be similarly affected by the shortage of workers.

Furthermore, Sarawak had only Indonesian foreign workers in plantations and workers from other nations were not allowed which further limit the choices of workers available to local plantations.

The association urged the Ministry of Plantations and Industries as well as Pemandu, Ministry of Land Development Sarawak, Labour Department Sarawak and Immigration Department Sarawak to carefully consider the implementation of such actions which would be detrimental to the oil palm industry in the state and also the nation.

It also hoped for speedier consideration on the approval of  hiring of foreign workers from other nations to be considered for the plantation industry here.

Taken from The Borneo Post