COMMENT | Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran walked into a minefield when he announced the ban on foreign cooks.
Kula has a point. Why should imported general workers end-up as cooks and manage food stalls?
He did not claim to ban top-end chefs, like sushi chefs, who take several years to perfect their skills. The people who criticised Kula's proposal, are probably those who are only interested in where to get the best "makan" deal.
Many Malaysians care more about their stomachs, than how their food is prepared. They care little about protecting local jobs, preferring cheap goods and services.
We react when a video of dishes being washed in a road-side puddle goes viral, but we are inured to the sight of similar unhygienic practises in the backstreets of our major towns and cities.
We aim to be a high income nation, but we encourage migrant workers, because they accept low wages (which translates to higher profits). We deny adequate insurance to cover their health and accidents at work.
Often living in cramped dormitories, workers are at the mercy of their employers. The poor to non-existent labour laws usually favour the employer. Migrant workers accept a low wage, because they consider it a king's ransom, compared with what they might earn in their own countries. Many remit money home, to their families.
For many years, the scandal about middlemen and migrant workers in the Masjid India and Wisma Yakin areas of Kuala Lumpur, was an open secret, but there was no political will to resolve it.
There are allegations of bumiputera stall-holders subletting their stalls and shops to Indonesians. They are freed from problems with workers, poor sales, compliance issues and competition. They are happy to receive a hassle-free regular income, every month.
A few years ago, migrant Indonesians in the Wisma Yakin area, erected permanent stalls on the sidewalks and blocked access to businesses in Wisma Yakin. Complaints to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall fell on deaf ears. Wisma Yakin businesses lost sales, because customers did not venture past the stalls...