KOTA KINABALU: The aim of legitimising foreign workers in Sabah through the issuance of a special pass is to ultimately prepare an adequate local workforce to fill in sectors where there is a shortage of labour.
Secretary-General of Parti Warisan Sabah, Loretto Padua Jr. strongly called for a roundtable discussion with all the stakeholders to determine how to increase the participation of locals in sectors dominated by the foreign workers.
“Ideally, what we want to see is a shift from having to rely on foreign workers to local labour.
“But we don’t know the real reason why locals shun away from working in the sectors dominated by the foreigners. Is it because it is dangerous, less glamorous, has no prospect of career advancement or low pay?
“Because if we are to end all the complaints and bickering about foreign and illegal workers in the State, then we have to get the locals to take over their place,” he said in a statement.
Padua suggested introducing mechanisation in plantations particularly for planting and harvesting so as to reduce an over-dependence on foreign labourers and at the same time, attracting locals to that sector by means of less labour intensive work.
“Warisan will look into this matter seriously and perhaps it is time to embark on a major mindset shift. We should change our views on these sort of jobs so that they will no longer be regarded as being lowly but rather, as a decent source of income.
Padua denounced detractors of the special pass for foreign workers in Sabah proposed by the Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Hj Mohd Shafie bin Hj Apdal saying it had nothing to do with the automatic issuance of citizenship to foreigners, residing legally or illegally in Sabah.
“If anyone claims through the social media that Warisan is attempting to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants through the issuance of the special pass, I want them to make that claim openly and we will deal with such accusations through legal means,” he said.
Padua who is also a Nominated State Assemblyman said the proposal came about due to the need to regulate, monitor and record all foreigners in Sabah.
Currently there are about 143,000 registered foreigners working in the State with another 800,000 illegal immigrants present in Sabah.
“If there are 800,000 illegal immigrants in the State but our plantation sector is facing a shortage of workers, then where have these illegal immigrants been staying and working all these years?
“Obviously some of them would have been working illegally and this is bad because the industries that are reliant upon them will have to grapple with a lack of commitment and focus from these workers.
“We need to strike a balance. We have locals who are uninterested to work in these sectors but there are 800,000 illegal immigrants and we don’t know where they are working. On top of that, we are unable to fully maximise our economic opportunities because of a shortage of workers,” he said.
The issuance of these special passes would regulate and monitor foreigners working in the State and help to spur economic growth in Sabah.
Padua also pointed out that It was not the first time a ‘pemutihan’ or issuance of special pass to foreign workers had been done in Sabah.
Former chief minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat had implemented a similar move during his tenure.