Critics stoke the fire about ban on foreign cooks

Complaints continue to be heard about a government ban on foreign cooks in restaurant kitchens. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Criticisms continue to pile up about the controversial decision by Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran to ban foreign cooks in restaurant kitchens beginning in January.

Lawyer and activist Azhar Harun said in a Facebook post that the Pakatan Harapan government should not make major decisions without consulting all involved. “It is not what Malaysians expected from PH,” he said.

On social media, Kulasegaran came under fire with some saying the ban was xenophobic, while others urged the minister to give priority to other issues such as minimum wage. “Ridiculous” and a “stupid move” were among the terms used. Restaurant owners have also protested.

Political analyst Wong Chin Huat agreed with Azhar, but told FMT that while Kulasegaran had good intentions, there were better ways to go about it. A ban would not resolve the problem.

Wong said one key reason for Malaysia’s dependence of foreign labour was that they are not only underpaid, but were also susceptible to exploitation, such as being required to work long hours without any overtime pay.

If the ministry could curb such exploitation, employers would naturally hire more Malaysians, Wong argued. “If they still don’t (hire locals), then we really have to work on improving the locals’ skills.”

In a posting earlier, Wong had pointed out the danger of making unilateral decisions.

Although Putrajaya could not be expected to consult everyone on every policy decision, neither should the government make decisions without proper consultation, whether on the national car or foreign cooks.

“Well, you can of course make the announcement first and make the u-turn later on, but wont that undermine your authority a bit?” he said.

Kulasegaran announced on Friday that restaurants would be required to employ only Malaysian cooks by Jan 1 as a way to reduce dependence on foreign labour and to ensure the quality of local food.

Only Malaysians should be recruited beginning July 1, with restaurant operators given until the end of the year to comply.

On social media, one user identified as Haissazc S Hisham tweeted that the ban “is no different from what Trump is doing today.”

A human rights group, Pusat Komas, said the ban reflected prejudice and would amount to negative discrimination if the decision had been made solely on the nationality of the cooks instead of other factors such as cooking skills.

“Patrons should have the option to choose where they want to eat regardless of who cooks the food,” Pusat Komas programme director, Adli Zakuan, said.

The ministry should encourage more local cooks to work in restaurants rather than imposing a ban on foreign cooks.

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