kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,
kheru2006
kheru2006

Don't tar everyone with the same brush

There are good and bad people in every community and we should be careful of how we look at the foreign workers in our midst.

MY barber comes from a small town in Pakistan. He is looking forward to his trip home next year as his son will be starting school soon.

On a good day, especially during weekends, he and his co-workers attend to at least 100 customers.

On a normal day, they get by with half that number.

He gets a fixed salary, half of which he sends back to his family. If you lead a simple life, he says, there is always enough to get by.

I like my barber because he is friendly and speaks good English.

He even reads this column and I suspect that if he could, he probably would like to give me a complimentary haircut at the end of the year.

There are many foreign workers in our land who are dutifully doing their work so they can support their families back home. They have travelled far and may have encountered an unscrupulous agent or two. Whether they are maids or construction workers, they are here to do the work that we locals shun.

The mass rapid transport system is currently one of the biggest construction projects in the Klang Valley. And at this stage, the workers are primarily foreign. Rain or shine, you see them hard at work.

I once took a ride on the LRT and sat next to an Indonesian family that had got on the train at the KLCC station. The couple with two sons looked very happy and I struck up a conversation with them.

I learnt that many years back, the man actually worked on the LRT project.

This is the first time he is back with his family as a tourist, and he is proud to tell his sons that their bapa helped to build the LRT, he said.

It is not just in tough jobs that we see such a strong foreign presence. I was at a top hotel for a wedding dinner last Saturday and all the waiters were foreign.

Some of us may be unaware that there are conditions in the employment of foreign workers in the services industry.

An employer’s application to employ foreign workers in this sector will only be considered after efforts to find qualified local citizens and permanent residents have failed.

We may wonder if the employer has tried hard enough, or if they are prepared to revise the salary scales to make them attractive to Malaysians, but the reality is that we should not complain too much if the foreign waiters are not particularly savvy about how to serve a 10-course Chinese dinner.

Today, each time I read sweeping statements about foreign workers, I am reminded that it is not fair to tar everyone with the same brush.

There are good and bad people in every community and we should be careful how we look at the foreign workers in our midst.

It has been said that Kuala Lumpur is like a foreign country each time there is a long stretch of holidays, but try looking at the situation from a different perspective.

Many of us are privileged enough to head to foreign destinations for family holidays.

The foreign workers here are simply enjoying the sights of Kuala Lumpur on their day off work.

I imagine somewhere in a small town in Pakistan my barber’s son is anxiously counting the days till his father will be home, for one month only, and the family will be reunited.

And maybe the father might be able to promise his son that one day, if he saves enough money from working in our country, he will be able to take him for a real holiday.

Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my) cautions against any sweeping indictment of the foreign workforce in our land because of the incident in Little India in Singapore. The majority are simply here to earn an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. The STAR Online Home News Opinion Columnist 15/12/2013

Tags: honesty
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