As many Malaysian workers are still stranded in Singapore following Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measure that began on 7 April and Malaysia’s extended Movement Control Order to 28 April, Deputy Secretary-General of the Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party (DAP), Teresa Kok Suh Sim took to her Facebook earlier today (21 April) urging Singapore government to make a “reasonable provision” to facilitate providing free swab-tests of COVID-19 for Malaysian workers who wish to return to their home country.
Ms Kok, who is also Malaysian’s former Minister of Primary Industries said that it could help to identify those who found negative to be issued with a certificate confirming the eligibility to return to Malaysia.
Citing the news report of The Straits Times, she said, “There are at least 45,000 Malaysians across the Causeway, many of whom are looking to return home. However, they must possess a Covid-free medical certificate or be quarantined if they fly back to Malaysia.”
Earlier, it was also reported that Malaysian workers would allowed to return to Malaysia if they undergo testing for COVID-19 in Singapore and acquire certified letter from Singapore authorities to prove they are clear of the virus.
Ms Kok also called out Singapore to consider granting the Malaysian workers that work in Singapore the same benefit as Singaporeans amid COVID-19 pandemic given that Malaysian workers have “contributed in no small way” to the current success of Singapore, which also included CPF contribution.
She explained, “This, if implement, would be a great relief to the thousands of workers caught up in this pandemic without any social safety net.”
Ms Kok remarked that some of the workers were asked to take unpaid leave and forbidden to work as part-timer by law during this circuit breaker period, which is reported by South China Morning Post on 20 April.
“I have been told that they are hesitant to return to Malaysia for fear that they will be unable to go back to Singapore, thus putting them in a Catch 22 situation,” she said.
She then added, “The problem was not caused by them and they cannot resolve it because of the prevailing extenuating circumstances brought about by the pandemic.”
The onus is on the Malaysian federal authorities to help Malaysian workers to return from Singapore, says Ms Teresa Kok
While noting the rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases in Singapore, Ms Kok said, “It has caused much anxiety among Malaysians there, especially the blue-collar workers in the non-essential businesses which were ordered to shut down.”
Due to the circuit breaker measures, many Malaysian workers are in “dire straits”, where have no income and have not been provided with proper accommodation when they are being held in Singapore.
In order to help those workers return to Malaysia, Ms Kok then put the onus on the Malaysian federal authorities, saying that the government has “a moral and legal obligation” in ensuring the well-being of citizens as Malaysian Director-General of Health Ministry Noor Hisham Abdullah has urged the workers to remain in Singapore for another two weeks to prevent mass transmission in Malaysia.
Hence, she also urged Malaysian government to set up a special task force immediately, which included the representatives from the Foreign Ministry, Health Ministry and Home Ministry.
This multi-ministry task force, she said, “will look into the welfare of this large number of Malaysian blue-collar workers in Singapore or facilitate their return to Malaysia as soon as possible.”
In line with the MCO, Malaysia’s Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Tuesday evening (21 Apr) announced that the operations hours of customs, immigration and quarantine complex (CIQ) on the Causeway, which operates 24-hour usually, will be changed to 7am to 7pm daily, effective from Friday (24 Apr).
According to Malaysia Bureau Chief of CNA Melissa Goh, Malaysia government will prepare up to 10,000 rooms at various quarantine centers, hotels in Johor and Melaka in order to accommodate the surging number of returnees from Singapore.
“On average, some 400 Malaysians returned daily from Singapore in the past few days,” she noted.