KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) has urged the Sabah government to implement thorough immigration screening and health checks on migrants in light of the increasing number of infectious diseases in the country.
Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), leptospirosis and rabies are making a comeback despite the country having successfully curbed these diseases in the past, former Institute of Respiratory Medicine director Dr Abdul Razak Muttalif was reported as saying recently.
Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking told FMT: “I believe all Sabahans must first take the initiative to ensure and detect all likely health challenges, such as TB, by following a healthy lifestyle.
“More so now since the number of TB cases has grown and has reached an unhealthy number in the last few years. I would say that it is not only genuine Sabahans who are facing these health problems, but also the huge foreign population in Sabah.
“Yes, it is time the Sabah government utilised its remaining immigration powers to do a thorough immigration screening as well as to impose health checks on all migrants.”
Meanwhile Razak reportedly said that TB was responsible for the highest number of deaths from infectious diseases in Malaysia.
He said Malaysia brought down the number of TB cases from more than 30,000 in 1960 to fewer than 6,000 in the mid-1980s.
However, the number gradually went up again from the mid-1990s, initially fuelled by the increasing number of HIV cases and migrant workers in the late 1990s, said Razak.
Leiking, who is also Penampang MP, has called for tighter screening specifically in the Labuan-Sabah gateway of Menumbok, where he said no immigration checks existed.
“We have exposed many times the ‘Menumbok Loophole’ which allows entry without visa into Sabah from Labuan and this loophole will likely allow those (foreigners) to enter Sabah undetected,” he said.
“And this will bring a host of problems as well as health concerns.
“We must ensure that employers also take the responsibility to carry out health checks on their employees and such costs must be borne by the employees.”
Leiking also urged the government to regulate foreigners already in Sabah and reduce its reliance on foreign skilled workers.
“I urge the Sabah government to exclude themselves from the federal government’s plans and first regulate foreigners who are already in Sabah, and to up the notch on teaching blue-collar skills to our own genuine Sabahans first.
“This would replace the need for foreign workers and make way for a new culture of local skilled workers for Sabah,” he said.