Rise in foreign workers, a cause for concern

Kudos to The Patriot on the article ‘Foreign workers manning markets’, published in the Opinion page in the Weekend Bulletin on October 10. It is long overdue but deeply heeded.

First and foremost, we thank His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for the most recent titah where our monarch again showed concerns about the uncontrolled influx of foreign workers in the country.

Last year, our monarch had also queried on the arrival of whole families of these foreign workers. The country obviously cannot trust the enforcement officers to do this simple task.

Last year, our monarch talked about abuse of power; this year, he is repeating the same issue. And the government officers in the country are famously known for their ‘hot pursuit’ when they are initially pushed to do their work. After a month and years gone by, no follow up is done.

The foreign nationals are very well familiar with the work ethics of our government servants who have totally forgotten about being the country’s true patriots. They have indeed abused their powers. The authorities have greatly contributed to this tremendous increase of businesses run and manned by foreign workers. The majority of them came to this country as workers but are now bosses operating their own shops.

It is imperative that stern actions be taken as it has gone totally out of control. From Bandar Seri Begawan to Tutong, Seria and Kuala Belait, these foreign workers have turned residential dwellings into commercial ones and with no safety in mind. They personally install electrical wirings and points and even sell the big cylinder cooking gas in these converted shops.

The monarch has also on numerous occasions reiterated on the issue of local citizens’ licences being used by these foreign workers. This issue has plagued the country for many years and was mentioned by a minister during the Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting so many years ago.

According to the country’s laws, only citizens and residents are bestowed the right to own stalls or shops belonging to government property. Again, this has been abused. Take for instance a well-visited building in the heart of Kuala Belait. The building has been turned into a kedai jahit (tailoring) village which is run and manned by foreign workers.

For almost two decades, these foreigners have accumulated their wealth and are sending it back to their home country. More recent and shocking is, the ground floor unit is now owned, manned and run by foreign nationals operating a grocery shop and a warehouse! A local is ‘put’ there for show at certain times only. The irony is that the same foreign nationals also own a bigger shop close by. Seats are placed outside these shops and the foreign workers sit and wait for drivers to stop illegally. These foreigners also stare particularly at female pedestrians from the head till foot.

The little peaceful town of Kuala Belait has become the sanctuary for many foreign nationals, shouting and talking loudly in groups and dress in see-through sarongs around town. The privilege to own the right to run business at government properties should be humbly appreciated.

Those who abuse this right to the foreign nationals for a few perks should have their ownership revoked without prejudice.

There are many graduates out there without jobs. Let them have this right to operate and run a start-up business.

Commercial buildings shouldn’t be the melting gold pot for these foreigners. Revoke the rights of these existing local owners without delay. Twenty years is more than enough time for them to hibernate. Appoint authorities from the capital to do this job. We obviously cannot rely on the Belait ones to perform this duty.

The onus is on the government servants to uphold the rights of our people. Too much time has gone by with no actions taken. Only well deserving ones should have the privilege. And perhaps the authorities can adopt a duration period of each shop unit so that when the term matures, others can be given the opportunity to enrich themselves. As of now, the current owner has had the shop units for more than 20 years.

Let’s all look forward to a healthier and prosperous 2035 and to be true patriots to our nation.

The True Patriots