MALAYSIAN Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan on Thursday (June 16) claimed that both the Bangladeshi Prime Minister and Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister have already approved a syndicate of 25 local recruiting agencies for sending workers to Malaysia.
However, speaking to The Business Post on the same day, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad refuted Saravanan’s claim.
According to a report published by the Malay Mail, Saravanan said: “When I met the Bangladeshi Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina Wazed), she agreed on 25 (recruiting agencies). The minister (in Bangladesh) had agreed on 25. So why are our Malaysian MPs jumping now?
“Tell the parliamentarians they can raise any question in Parliament; that’s the right place so the whole world can listen. And it’s recorded, rather than raised on social media.”
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.
According to the said news article, Saravanan further claimed that “a management team had vetted over 1,500 agencies and selected the 25 based on a set of criteria agreed upon by both countries”.
However, the Malaysian Government has not disclosed under what criteria those 25 recruiting agencies were selected. Many of the proposed agencies do not have the experience to send workers to Malaysia while those who are experienced did not get selected at all.
Selected syndicates are highly connected
Among the 25 syndicated agencies, three recruiting agencies are owned by three lawmakers each and one is owned by the wife of an important minister of Bangladesh.
Moreover, of those firms, one has the experience of sending only 387 workers so far and another has the experience of sending only 91 workers. Malaysia hires workers from 13 other source countries in a regular process without any syndication.
Speaking to The Business Post, Minister Imran said neither PM Sheikh Hasina nor he himself has approved any of the 25 Bangladeshi recruiting agencies.
He further explained: “Saravanan made the claim quoting our Prime Minister. But first we have to think, is there any news regarding this claim? Secondly, in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Bangladesh and Malaysia, there is no clause mentioning 25 agencies.
“And thirdly, when I met with Saravanan for a discussion on the matter in Dhaka on June 2, we held no conversation regarding 25 agencies. So, how can Saravanan claim that we already gave him the approval?”
Imran then pointed out: “Before leaving Dhaka, Saravanan told journalists that usually, the receiving country decides on the agencies, and Malaysia will do this according to the decision of its Cabinet. If so, how can he say that we already approved the matter?”
Commenting on the issue, Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants (WARBE) Development Foundation’s Chairman Syed Saiful Haque claimed that “a Malaysian mafia-like racket is behind the push to create a 25-agency syndicate of Bangladeshi recruiters.
“Bestinet owner Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Abdul Nor and Saravanan are the masterminds of this racket. A lot of money has already changed hands from Bangladesh to Malaysia.
“Saravanan has only until the Malaysian election to execute the ill-motivated plan. This is why he has become so restless. The Prime Minister of Malaysia should intervene as this issue is also tarnishing his image ahead of the Malaysian national polls.”
Former secretary-general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman expressed his surprise after learning of Saravanan’s claims.
“We did not hear anything about the Bangladeshi Prime Minister and Expatriates’ Welfare Minister approving the 25-agency syndicate,” Noman added.
The anti-syndicate alliance of local recruiting agencies has called for a media conference tomorrow (June 18) to voice their reaction on the matter.
Not first time Saravanan issued inconsistent statements
A week ago, Saravanan made statements in Kuala Lumpur that directly contradicted what he had said on labour recruitment just days ago in Dhaka.
After a meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Imran during a recent visit to Bangladesh on June 2, Saravanan had told reporters, “The mechanism for hiring workers from Bangladesh, however, will come into effect after the Malaysian Cabinet meeting approval.
“Usually, the receiving country decides about the agencies. We will do this according to the decision of our Cabinet.”
However, after a Cabinet meeting of the Malaysian Government held on June 8, journalists asked Saravanan about what the Cabinet had decided regarding the process of hiring foreign workers.
In response, he said: “There was nothing to discuss (in the Cabinet meeting). At Malaysia’s level, the MoU has long been settled. There is no issue at the Cabinet level.
“Because the Cabinet has already decided, and that is why I went to Bangladesh. Otherwise, I would not have visited the country.”
Saravanan then mentioned that the employers applying to hire migrant workers through the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS) will get approval within a week.
The FWCMS online system is operated by Bestinet Sdn Bhd. Owned by Bangladeshi-origin Malaysian Mohd Amin, the private firm is behind the creation of the syndicate, industry insiders told The Business Post. – June 17, 2022
Mehedi Al Amin is a journalist at Bangladeshi news portal, The Business Post.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.