KUCHING, March 8 2017 : Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia that has North Korean workers, employed in some seven companies, mostly located in the Selantik coal field in Sri Aman Division.
Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem said as far as the ministry is concerned, these workers are categorized as non-resident workers, governed by the Sarawak Labour Ordinance.
He said Sarawak has the “localization committee” to look into these non-resident matters, headed by the State Secretary, while the State Labour Department Director only sits in the committee as one of the members.
“As far as I know, we leave the non-resident workers matter to this committee, it has nothing to do with the Human Resource Ministry,” he told reporters when met after paying a courtesy call on Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg at his office here today.
When asked to comment on Abang Johari’s statement yesterday that the state government is in talks with the Home Ministry and the Foreign Ministry on the fate of 176 North Korean workers in Sarawak, he told reporters to leave it to the relevant Ministries.
“Suffice to say that with the Chief Minister’s statement, let it be as a direction where our Foreign Ministry and the Home Ministry can make their decision. I prefer not to touch on it,” he said.
Yesterday Abang Johari was reported as saying that the issue was a very delicate one, and any decision would take some time to reach, and the state government would wait for the advice from the ministries on the matter.
This followed the tense bilateral relationships between Malaysia and North Korea in the aftermath of the murder of a North Korean citizen, widely reported to be Kim Jong-nam, the estranged haf-brother of the North Korean leader.
Meanwhile, Abang Johari reiterates that he is still awaiting directives from the federal government in dealing with the North Koreans still in the state.
He said the tense bilateral relationship between Malaysia and North Korea had only just flared up so the question remained whether they would be deported or otherwise.
Speaking to reporters at his office here today, he said 140 of the North Koreans had been rounded up by the Immigration Department because their working permits had expired.
“They are mostly construction workers working in Lawas and Miri and of course they have to be deported.
“The 36 others, who are working in a coal mine in Selantik in Sri Aman Division, still have valid working pass. They are currently at their work site based on the list that we have,” he said.
Abang Johari added because of the current situation, the state government needed to get clearance from the federal government.
Asked why the state was the only one employing these workers, he said it was because of their special skill, like working in coal mines.
“It must be remembered too when they were brought in, Malaysia has normal diplomatic relationship with North Korea as well,” he said. – Bernama