25 labour recruiters’ impasse: Andy Hall offers his 2 sen worth to Saravanan

PERHAPS now is not the best time to moot the idea of running a lie detector test as Malaysia desperately needs to resolve the politics over the 25 labour recruiters to ensure concerns over the stalling of Bangladeshi workforce supply to the country can be quickly alleviated.

Migrant workers and labour rights activist Andy Hall has a solution for Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan who found himself in ‘turbulent waters’ as Dhaka has denied that it has approved any of the 25 Bangladeshi recruiting agencies for sending Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia contrary to what the Tapah MP has claimed.

The answer lies in an open tender process which is obviously the most viable solution at this moment in time although this means more delays are inevitable to manage the paper work, conduct vetting and ultimately identifying/selecting the right candidates (agencies).

Ridiculous as it sounds, this could also mean that both Dhaka and Putrajaya going back to the writing board even after both parties had seemingly concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Dec 19 last year to meet Malaysia’s urgent need for foreign workers after the Cabinet approved 32,000 workers through special exemption in September.

Andy Hall

“In my opinion, genuine transparency here requires a public open tender process to select the most able, ethical and financially sustainable manpower agencies for these recruitment tasks, if indeed the number of agencies conducting recruitment is capped for whatever reasons,” commented Hall.

“(It’s all about) public, clear and open eligibility criteria for possible selection, a transparent objective tender process where the best agencies are selected and get the work. Anything less is unacceptable, lacking in transparency and raises serious concerns of the possibility for systemic corruption.”

Clearly a case of short-term pain, long-term gain, it has become inevitable for Putrajaya and Dhaka to rationally agree and objectively/fairly justify any possible selection of only a limited number of manpower agencies to carry out these recruitment tasks, according to Hall.

“Or surely they cannot limit the number of agencies involved due to transparency or corruption concerns,” he reckoned.

In refuting Saravanan’s recent claim, Bangladeshi Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed was cited by Bangladeshi news portal The Business Post as saying that neither Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed nor he himself had approved any syndicate of 25 Bangladeshi recruiting agencies.

Imran’s statement was echoed by former secretary-general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman who had expressed his surprise after learning of Saravanan’s claims.

“We did not hear anything about the Bangladeshi Prime Minister and Expatriates’ Welfare Minister (Imran) approving the 25-agency syndicate,” Noman added.

Saravanan’s remarks appeared to be aimed at Klang MP Charles Santiago and two migrant worker advocacy groups that previously asked the minister to respond to allegations that a syndicate would control the 25 agencies.

Among others, they said the number of agencies appeared arbitrary and argued that open competition would prevent possible abuse and monopoly.

However, Saravanan said he could not divulge the specific details and selection method directly to the media but would gladly disclose this to lawmakers in Parliament.

“Tell the parliamentarian they can raise any question in Parliament; that’s the right place so the whole world can listen. And it’s recorded rather than raise it in social media,” he noted angrily. – June 19, 2022

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