Saturday, January 12, 2008

Draft labour pact between India and Malaysia

India, Malaysia finalise draft labour pact
P.S. Suryanarayana

Mutual welfare of workers taken care of, say official sources

KUALA LUMPUR, 11 Jan. 2008: India and Malaysia have finalised a draft memorandum of understanding on the recruitment and welfare of each other’s workers, according to official sources.

The accord can be signed after some procedural formalities are completed.
During Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s recent visit here, India is understood to have raised the issue of expediting the process. Malaysian leaders evinced interest, but no timeline was set, more so because the subject was not linked to bilateral defence cooperation.

Malaysia hosts about 2.1 million workers from 11 “source countries,” including India.

This figure, according to authorities, is well above the 1.8 million mark that is considered optimal for now. India estimates that nearly 150,000 of its nationals are working in Malaysia.

There is no move at this stage to set any limit on the recruitment of Indian professionals by Malaysian firms.

As for the Indian priests, officiating in the Hindu temples, the government affirmed that there would be no ban on new recruitments. Also, there would be no move to curtail the period of renewals.

There are over 5,000 temple priests from India, some of whom have completed 10 years of service in Malaysia. Normally, annual visas are granted to them on a renewable basis, up to a total period of five years.

Temple musicians from India have been given similar visas, for up to three years, while sculptors are given monthly visas, subject to a maximum of six months, according to non-governmental ethnic Indian groups.

Political observers here point out that the issue of Indian priests has acquired sensitive overtones in recent months. This was because the Hindu Rights Action Force began using places of worship for “prayer-protests” and public speeches on political issues concerning Malaysian Indians.

Hindraf has been leading a campaign against the alleged “marginalisation” of this community. The counter-argument is that Indian priests come to Malaysia for earning better livelihood and not to spread a divisive Hindu identity.

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