Amnesty, legalisation of illegal immigrants and foreign workers' registration. Different descriptions that carry the same meaning. Its all about money - BIG money with BIG confusion.
I thought the government has already agreed to pay Nexbis Sdn Bhd about RM1 billion for the biometric system contract. And this company, which many know belongs to close relatives of a 'very senior Cabinet minister', is not an agent for the 'pemutihan' but the one who supplies Home Ministry and the Immigration Dept with the device.
This 'pemutihan' was originally set for early June. It was then delayed to mid-June and then to July 1st. Deputy PM and chairman of Cabinet Committee for Foreign Workers Muhyiddin Yassin then announced that it would start on July 11 while Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the date was July 1.
However, registration of legal foreign workers only began on July 12 while August 1st is set for illegal workers' registration. Both procedures are given a duration of three to four weeks each. Legal workers can register at the Immigration Dept for free while appointed agents are allowed to impose a RM35 charge to register an illegal.
However, the time frame given is met with criticism as it would not be suffice to cover about 2 million foreign workers in the Peninsular. As Ramadan is closing in, many (including diplomats of respective countries) believe it should be extended until end of September.
Initially, the government's plan was to complete both procedures in three weeks. The idea was to avoid some people from taking advantage of it, especially in controlling the possible influx of foreigners who saw it as an opportunity to 'swim over' to Malaysia. It is also a must that all foreign workers - illegal or not - to have this biometric card.
At the early stages, some said outsourcing companies are not entitled to apply as agents for this biometric because they are the ones who created a lot of problems by bringing in so many foreign workers but failed to secure them with appropriate jobs at one time. This caused the government with severe headache as the cost to send them home was not cheap.
And then, they decided that any company with a track-record in managing foreign workers were allowed to apply. Finally, more than 800 did that. However, the number chosen as agents rose to more than 300 instead of 150 as originally planned.
Some matters are still in contention, among which are the manner in which the whole process was conducted by KDN officials. Among which are:
* During the first briefing with about 300 shortlisted agents on June 29, it was explained that the rental for each biometric machine was RM14,750 and agents who wish to use it were advised to go straight to Nexbis office in Damansara. And so, there was a 'gate-crash' for the machines the next day.
* However, during a second briefing on July 7, potential agents were given less than 24 hours to prepare bank drafts as deposits for the machines, and whoever could produce it by 11am the next day (Friday) would be given a letter of appointment at 3pm. As most companies (especially Bumis) didnt have enough money and while the time given was so short, some have to sell of their cars, jeweleries and even resorted to borrowing from the loan sharks for the deposits.
* Those who paid deposits on July 7 were told to collect the official receipts, letter of appointment and a CD which contains the formatted forms to be used for registration, at 3pm. When they returned after the Friday prayers, many were left without the CDs and official receipts.
* Confusion flared again when announcements gave two different dates of registration - 18th and 25th of July. And again, it was finally said that registration of illegal workers would start on August 1. However, where is the CDs and the machines when only some agents have already got it? Also, not all agents could afford even a single biometric machine.
* Initially, it was said that Bangladeshis would not be included but the decision was then turned around. KDN also said there wont be any charges for the Bangladeshis, whether they are illegal or not. So, what's this special treatment all about?
* KDN said agents could start registering illegal foreign workers beginning August 1 for RM35 but when will the legalisation (biometric) begin in order for the agents to collect the RM300 commission-per-head? A year later?
* KDN too did not take any action on several reports about various agents and companies already raking in big money by collecting between RM500 and RM2000 from foreign workers who wished to 'buy' the biometric card. Some have done it over the past one year. In fact, there was no standard guideline as to how much the government would charge them by their job sectors.
* The biometric machines are meant to be free as Nexbis Sdn Bhd will get its RM1 billion from the government. KDN should only impose rental charges for it but it seems that the ministry too wants to make money by charging agents with such a high fees.
* As some agents have got their machines already, who will supply the others, and when? Latest news is, KDN is having a shortage of biometric machines. If its true, then we can expect more problems.
And so, this biometric thing is not only giving problems to agents but to foreigners as well. Some have been cheated while the rest are having doubt about KDN's credibility in ensuring that the whole process could be completed within the stipulated period.
Who could come up with a 'one-off' explanation?