On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Tighten control of foreign labour

In all objectivity, the number of crimes committed by
locals must surely be higher but as guests in this country, Indonesians are
expected to behave better.

Undeniably, many Indonesians have helped built our country through hard work
and honest living, especially in the construction industry.

Domestic maids have helped run our households to enable husband and wife to
combine their incomes, providing a higher standard of living.

Many factories would not be able function without Bangladeshi workers.

But the message to foreigners is that those who have been granted PR status
should not take this privilege for granted.

They must also realise that there are many foreign spouses, including
professionals, who wonder why they don't deserve PR status after having lived
here for over 10 years.

Surely, these highly-educated and well-trained professionals can contribute
more than lesser-skilled foreigners.

Malaysians must therefore welcome the proposal to impose heavier penalties,
including whipping, to check the influx of illegal immigrants.

It is regrettable that activists like Tenagita director Irene Fernandez have
chosen to attack the Government for reintroducing such laws.

Last week, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said proposals
by the newly set up Cabinet Committee on Illegal Immigrants would include
punishment on illegals, employers and those found harbouring them.

The Home Minister said the panel proposed to increase the current fine of not
more than RM10,000 or jail term not exceeding five years or both.

It also proposed that whipping be included as part of the sentence for
illegals. It is learnt that the proposal is for a maximum of six strokes of the
cane for the first offence.

Abdullah said there were now about 600,000 illegals in the country, mostly from
neighbouring countries. Those in the peninsula are mainly from Indonesia with
some from other countries including those from the African continent.

Malaysians, especially those in Sabah, must be forgiven if they are cynical
about that figure. Most of us believe it is much higher.

These laws, at first glance, may seem harsh but they are necessary as an
effective deterrent to combat this menance.

At the same thing, the fight against the influx of illegal immigrants can only
be meaningful if there is a clean machinery.

An equally strong punishment must be meted out against enforcement officers
found to be involved in this human trade.

The decision to impose heavier penalties, especially on employers, reflects the
seriousness of the Government in wanting to end the problem.

If there are no errant bosses who readily provide jobs for these foreigners,
then they will be discouraged from coming here.

In Singapore, employers are fearful of hiring illegals because of tough laws
against offenders.

If previously the authorities had to deal with social problems such as
contagious diseases, squatter woes and crimes, they now have to cope with
religious militancy, even if the number of people involved seems small.

Malaysians must realise that by opting for such cheap labour from neighbouring
countries, they will merely see short-term gains.

Taxpayers already have to subsidise foreigners who use our hospitals and other
facilities. Their children are already in local schools, further burdening our

Decades from now, they will have an impact on our political landscape,
particularly when their family size is usually bigger than average

Even small traders have felt the pinch from the more aggressive Indonesian
hawkers who have taken over Chow Kit, once predominantly inhabited by Chinese
and Malay traders.

The efforts by the Home Ministry deserves our full support because the
long-term cost of having these immigrants around is just too high.

Malaysia should seriously woo our brethrens who have gone overseas and
highly-skilled foreigners, especially those in the medical, engineering, arts,
manufacturing and information technology fields.

Such expatriates will sharpen our competiveness in facing globalisation as
Malaysia needs at least 35,000 skilled workers.

But patriotism and an attractive pay packet are not the only things these
experts look for.

We need to get our priorities right. We are competing with Singapore, Hong Kong
and other countries for the best brains.

Yes, we need manual workers as much as we need the experts, but control is