Malaysia denies any freeze on Indian workers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 10, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 10, 2008

Malaysia denies any freeze on Indian workers

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Malaysia yesterday denied it had frozen the recruitment of workers from India, after reports quoted officials saying a ban was in place as the government cracks down on dissent by ethnic Indians.
"Let me categorically state that the ministry of home affairs has never come out with any rulings or circulars that we have stopped taking foreign workers from India," Home Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad told a press conference.
Radzi said he was shocked at news reports of the freeze, which quoted a home ministry official who cited government documents and said the measure covered unskilled labourers as well as priests, sculptors and musicians.
The news caused waves in India, which has already expressed concern over the heavy-handed treatment of ethnic Indian activists in Malaysia.
Religious leaders had condemned the apparent decision, which came after unprecedented protests by ethnic Indian Malaysians last year and the jailing of prominent activists under laws that provide for detention without trial.
Radzi said that the intake of workers from Bangladesh was frozen last October "because it did not benefit us and many agents cheated the workers."
But he insisted that "we are not also tightening the intake of workers from India. There is no decision to stop taking workers from India."
The nation's top non-Muslim religious body -- the Malaysian Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism -- said Tuesday the government had already been refusing to issue new visas for foreign priests.
Foreign priests already in the country have only been given six-month renewals and told they must leave after expiry, it said, complaining there would now not be enough Hindu priests to conduct prayers at important temples.

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