Never my intention to keep Putrajaya in the dark over Chinese workers, says Shafie

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal (left) talking to an official of Sawit Kinabalu over Sabah’s second cooking oil brand ‘Gold’.

SANDAKAN: Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal today said it was never his intention not to inform Putrajaya over Sabah’s plans to allow foreign workers from China to return to Sabah for work.

He said he had relayed the intention to several immigration personnel at a meeting between government agencies recently and believed they had been slow in relaying this information to Putrajaya.

“I have informed the Immigration Department. I have requested for this matter to be coordinated between the federal and state governments.

“I have not contacted the minister concerned, but I will. I wish for government-to-government cooperation in this matter.

“Let’s not make a big deal out of this.

“I have informed the state secretary and he will get in touch with his federal counterpart over this matter.

“What’s important is we must identify the mistake. Once we have done so, we must resolve it,” he said during a press conference here after launching Sabah’s second cooking oil brand called “Gold”.

The cooking oil is produced by Syarikat Intipati Minyak Sdn Bhd and Sawit Kinabalu.

Senior Minister (Security) Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday said the Sabah government had not contacted Putrajaya over its decision to allow workers from China to return to the state.

He said the country’s borders have remained closed to foreigners, especially tourists, under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

Immigration powers come under the federal government, but Sabah also holds special powers in terms of who can or cannot enter Sabah under the Act.

Shafie insisted that such matters should be dealt with on a government-to-government basis although the state had such special immigration powers.

He said the foreign workers comprise technical experts and Sabah is under the agreement with the Chinese companies to allow a certain number of workers to complete China’s unfinished projects in Sabah.

“There are many projects run by the Chinese companies that have stopped due to Covid-19. They have invested so much in Sabah and now they need the employment pass to return to work .

“If we don’t allow them in, none of their buildings would be completed. Our railway service will also not be able to operate.

“Once everything resumes, there will be jobs for the locals, our economy would be able to improve and Sabahans will get salaries to buy food,” he said.

On the cooking oil, Shafie said Gold is Sabah’s second cooking oil brand after Bess that was launched in Tawau.

A third cooking oil brand will also be produced in Keningau, he said.

Shafie noted Sabah’s cooking oil had entered the Philippines, Middle East and African markets.

He said orders from the Philippines have hit over a million bottles and local manufacturers are struggling to meet the demand.

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