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Malaysia denies ban on India, Bangladesh workers

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A Malaysian minister denied on Tuesday that his government had suspended the recruitment of workers from India and Bangladesh.

Protesters are seen holding up posters and banners during a street protest by ethnic Indians in Kuala Lumpur in this November 25, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

“I just spoke to my prime minister ... There is no truth in the statement released by Reuters ... It’s not true means everything is status quo,” Works Minister S. Samy Vellu, the only ethnic Indian member of the cabinet, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi.

“Indian workers are already there. When it is needed, they are welcome.”

Earlier, a Malaysian Home Ministry official told Reuters that the cabinet had decided about two weeks ago to freeze the intake of workers from India and Bangladesh. Other ministry officials had then confirmed the ban but gave no reason.

About an hour before his denial, Vellu had said the country had enough foreign workers.

“The government decided it is enough and we don’t want to recruit any more because we have enough workers,” he told Reuters at the conference. “Is it wrong?”

The minister’s press secretary later said those comments should be “disregarded”, saying they were made before the minister had adequate information.

Relations between India and Malaysia have been hurt by recent allegations of discrimination against the ethnic Indian community in this Southeast Asian country.

Ethnic Indians staged a mass anti-government protest in November, alleging that the authorities had sidelined the community under an affirmative action policy that favours the majority ethnic Malays.

Some Indian politicians, including Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, voiced concern for the ethnic Indians.

Around 7 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people are ethnic Indians, whose forefathers were brought over as labourers by British colonial rulers.