Not all foreign workers are illegal, says Liow

IPOH - Not all foreign workers are illegal and the Immigration Department should be diligent when checking their documents and backgrounds.

MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said some of these foreign workers, with permits, could be working at farms and their arrest could inadvertently affect operations.

"There must be a standard operating procedure. Not all foreign workers should be detained because they may have valid permits," he told journalists after a ground-breaking ceremony for a multipurpose hall at SM Shen Jai here yesterday.

"Farming activities there could be affected," he added when commenting on Sunday's massive crackdown on illegal immigrants at Cameron Highlands.

Some 181 foreign workers have been rounded up and sent to the detention depots throughout the country to be deported to their countries.

The Government is working on improving the situation at the highlands, which was hit by flash floods and mudslides last week, Liow said.

The calamity claimed five lives.

Liow said the Government would come out with methods to stop illegal land-clearing for farming, which had contributed to such disasters.

He added that some measures would be taken, including the deepening of rivers and maintaining of river embankments.

"We also urge everyone to not throw rubbish into them. If rivers are clogged, it will cause flash floods," he reminded.

In Petaling Jaya, the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) wants the Government to immediately freeze excessive land-clearing in steep terrain in Cameron Highlands.

Its president Datuk Lim Chow Hock said any further opening up of the highlands would aggravate the problem of soil erosion and increase the risk of flooding.

"The long-term solution lies in the control of land use and the authorities' seriousness in tackling the root cause," he said in a statement yesterday.

Plastic "houses" used extensively by farmers to shelter their vegetable farms in hilly slopes should have proper water retention facilities so that stormwater flowing to the rivers could be controlled and held back at source, he added.

Lim also said that an integrated approach should include best agricultural practices and the relocation of squatters along river reserves.

"In order to prevent further loss of lives, it is important to formulate the Cameron Highlands Disaster Prevention Master Plan urgently.

"IEM is willing to assist the Government with the necessary technical advice in the preparation of such a plan," he said.