KUCHING: The Sarawak Energy Bhd (Sarawak Energy) has expelled 60 foreign workers who were hired by its contractors for the Baleh Hydroelectric Project (HEP) in Kapit Division after they were found to be working without permits, state Utilities Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom said today.
He said the 60 foreigners, who were among 970 workers at the Baleh site, were detected during a COVID-19 mass screening exercise at the site on April 24 and were referred to the Immigration Department for further action.
“An investigation has been launched and a physical site compliance audit will be carried out as soon as the EMCO (Enhanced Movement Control Order) is lifted, as part of the efforts to enforce Sarawak Energy’s zero tolerance for workers without valid permits at the site,” he said in a statement.
While the investigation progresses, he said the Baleh HEP team would also increase surveillance at its contractor camps with more frequent audit and spot checks on the workers and security personnel stationed at the site.
“These will complement the regular joint operations between Sarawak Energy, the Sarawak Immigration Department and the police to screen workers without valid work permits at Baleh site,” he said.
In curbing the spread of COVID-19, Dr Rundi said Sarawak Energy was implementing containment efforts with support from the Kapit Division Disaster Management Committee, as well as the health and security authorities.
“Their support during this extremely difficult time has been crucial as we all work together to overcome this threat to our lives,” he said.
The Baleh HEP is one of Sarawak’s key infrastructure projects and employs over 500 Sarawakians from the state including Kapit and surrounding areas, as well as foreign manpower in the remaining roles.
Dr Rundi said since March last year, the project had enforced strict COVID-19 standard operating procedures with controlled entries and exits that had kept the Baleh site free from the disease up until now.