KUCHING - Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem believes that foreign workers in Malaysia are not only "happy", but that this country is "heaven on earth" for them.
"Otherwise, they (foreign workers) won't be coming here in droves, legally or illegally," the minister told reporters Riot after opening the Koperasi Bidayuh Kuching Bhd open day event at the Dayak Bidayuh National Association headquarters here.
"Malaysians ourselves don't see it. We are so lucky. This is heaven on earth. We don't need to go to some other countries to look for jobs, except of course, some of our talents have left to look for greener pastures.
"But based on the number (of workers) who come here, and compared to the ones who have left, it (the difference) is small," added Riot.
Hundreds of South Asian workers rioted in Little India last Sunday, causing a trail of destruction where many vehicles including police cars were damaged.
The violence apparently started after a bus ran over and killed an Indian worker as he was crossing a road.
Riot claimed the Malaysian Government had played "a good job" in foreign worker management.
"If they (foreign workers) are not happy, there would have been riots here already," Riot reasoned.
According to the minister, there were about 1.3 million legal foreign workers in Malaysia presently. For every legal worker, there was an estimated one or more illegal foreign workers, whom entered the country with social passes, he said. In the aftermath of the Singapore riots, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) had warned the same could happen here.
MTUC president Khalid Atan said in a statement that growing discontent among foreign workers in Malaysia, due to poor working conditions, discrimination and low wages, was like a "time bomb". He called for immediate tripartite talks to review existing foreign worker policies.