KOTA KINABALU: State Secretary Datuk Safar Untong has been directed to inform Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yakob that there is no issue to allowing China workers to return to Sabah.
The matter had been discussed and agreed upon with the Immigration Department, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, adding Ismail Sabri may have not been aware of that.
But he said he had asked Safar to inform Ismail Sabri and also ensure coordination between the state and federal governments.
“I may not have contacted the minister but the Immigration Department is there and I have asked the State Secretary to coordinate with the federal government,” he said after launching Gold, a cooking oil manufactured by state owned Kumpulan Sawit Kinabalu and Syarikat Intipati Minyak Sdn. Bhd in Sandakan on Saturday.
Shafie said the state government gave the green light for China technical and skilled workers to return as many projects undertaken by Chinese investment companies had stalled due to the movement control order.
He said these companies, which employ large numbers of locals, needed technical expertise from Chinese skilled workers to restart their projects.
Many Chinese workers had returned to China during the Chinese New Year holidays in February but could not return following the implementation of the MCO on March 18 and the closure of international borders.
He said the Chinese companies were involved in several infrastructure construction projects as well as state railway consultancy works in the state.
On Thursday, Ismail Sabri announced that the federal government was still closing the country’s border with China following the Covid-19 outbreak, and said that Sabah’s move to allow back the workers was done without consultation with him.
Shafie said though the state government had immigration rights to grant permission for anyone to enter the state, he had asked the State Secretary to inform the federal government.
He said the main purpose to allow Chinese workers to return was to ensure that locals working in the projects are not left unemployed or unpaid as well as to get the state’s economy moving.