LETTER | Stop action against undocumented workers during Covid-19 pandemic

Thomas Samuel


LETTER | Globally, the world is feeling the impact and consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Life has taken a new approach, and we have to learn to adapt to the new normal.

Every sector of our economy is feeling the pinch and bleeding due to this pandemic. Many companies have closed or are on the verge of closing down and many Malaysians have lost their jobs, taken a pay cut or even been told to go on long leave, without any assurance when to return.

There is no indication that our economy is getting any better, and it is a common belief the worst is yet to come.

Given the difficult environment and economy, it is annoying and uncalled for that the authorities are raiding business premises and charging them for various offences that are partly or wholly attributed to the pandemic. Most are non-essential requirements that do not compromise health, safety and the economy of the nation.

In no uncertain terms should the authorities compromise on safety and health at these businesses. However, lesser offences that are a result of the pandemic should be viewed with compassion, care and with a broader perspective for the larger good of the nation.

Being very strict on all laws applicable to businesses at this time is counter-productive to our economy. Closing down any business now will have a domino effect on the supply chain and affect businesses that contribute and support each other. We can least afford to take such stern action given the current environment.

The immigration department, in particular, seems to have doubled their efforts to round up illegal immigrants and UNHCR cardholders from their workplaces. Most often, these workers are employed because business owners cannot find local workers who will work in such working conditions.

Business owners cannot afford to close their business and incur further losses due to the unavailability of workers. They are put in a dilemma that has little or no options to ensure their businesses continue to survive. The only option before them is employing undocumented workers who are readily available in Malaysia.

For example, if a business owner employs an undocumented worker in a restaurant but adheres to all other regulations in place, should he be penalised for hiring undocumented workers?

This is where compassion and common sense should prevail above blindly enforcing a law that will escalate the collapse of our economy. If the undocumented worker is healthy, given the required immunisation and free from any illness that could be a risk to others, he should be allowed to work, at least until the economy recovers.

The issue of undocumented workers is not new in Malaysia. It has been there for a very long time and the same authorities enforcing the law, are equally responsible and accountable for the presence of these undocumented workers here in Malaysia.

It can be construed as unfair to penalise business owners when the root cause of this problem stems from poor enforcement by the authorities at our borders as well as widespread corruption.

Taking action on undocumented workers now is a step back for the economy. The authorities should avoid it if there is a possibility to delay firm action to a much later date.

The police and the local councils are the other enforcement agencies that blindly enforce the law without weighing the offence in a rational manner. Many poor Malaysians’ livelihood is affected by their actions during this pandemic. Do not make their lives worse than it already is by your overzealous actions.

It is my hope that our authorities act with compassion and empathy to ensure more businesses can survive the pandemic and contribute to the revival of our economy. Any drastic action now will put further strain on the economy and the people and will contribute to more unemployment, social ill and emotional stress. More people have been pushed to a corner and have committed suicide during this pandemic.

Let not our overzealous actions take more lives that are priceless and not worthy of the offence committed.

Act with compassion.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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