Today's Paper

“No Malaysian move against Indian workers”

P. S. Suryanarayana

KUALA LUMPUR: Top Malaysian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, have not conveyed to Defence Minister A. K. Antony, who concluded a three-day visit here on Tuesday, any message about an actual or imminent freeze on the recruitment of Indian workers and professionals at this stage.

Instead, the issue of firming up a Malaysia-India memorandum of understanding on the intake and welfare of Indian labour figured in the talks between Mr. Antony and his Malaysian interlocutors. Sources told The Hindu that there was no mention of any move or decision to stop the flow of Indian workers and professionals into Malaysia.

Mr. Antony, who came here to take India-Malaysia cooperation in the defence domain to a new high, called on Mr. Abdullah on Tuesday after holding talks with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak and Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar on Monday.

Sources said the two sides discussed the issue of expediting the conclusion of a bilateral MoU on the recruitment and welfare of Indian labour.

However, no decision on this issue, unrelated to defence matters, was announced during Mr. Antony’s visit.

Council complaint

The question of a freeze on recruitment surfaced here after a Malaysian Home Ministry official was quoted, in some reports, as having indicated that a circular had been issued to that effect. This followed a press release by A.Vaithilingam, president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism.

Mr. Vaithilingam said the council “is shocked that the [Malaysian] Immigration Department has suddenly ceased to issue work permits [in regard] to new applications for [recruitment of] foreign priests, temple musicians, and sculptors.”

A spokesman of the Council told The Hindu that the non-governmental group had not, however, seen any official circular. The Foreign Ministry, too, was not aware of any such decision, according to other sources.