Nothing Discriminatory About Barring Foreign Workers From Being Cooks Only At Hawker Stalls Because Hawker Licenses Are Granted For Lower-Income Malaysians And Supposed To Be Owner-Operated, Whilst This Ruling Does Not Bar Foreigners From Owning Restaurants Nor Prevent Foreign Workers From Cooking In Restaurants. (EN/CN)

Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 26.10.2014.

Nothing Discriminatory About Barring Foreign Workers From Being Cooks Only At Hawker Stalls Because Hawker Licenses Are Granted For Lower-Income Malaysians And Supposed To Be Owner-Operated, Whilst This Ruling Does Not Bar Foreigners From Owning Restaurants Nor Prevent Foreign Workers From Cooking In Restaurants.

The Penang state government is pleased that one of the world’s top leading web tourism guide, Trip Advisor, has placed Penang as the most affordable Malaysian island in South-East Asia. The results are taken from the second annual TripIndex Island Sun report, which compares the cost of a day out and an overnight stay for two persons in sixteen popular island destinations across Southeast Asia.

Penang island, with a TripIndex cost of RM1,183.96, is the most affordable Malaysian island at ninth place. Pulau Redang (#11), Pulau Tioman (#12) and Langkawi (#13) were the other Malaysian islands included in this study, with total costs of RM1,425.00, RM1,504.56 and RM1,587.72 respectively. Penang is also home to the most affordable stay in a 4-star hotel room, costing travellers RM395.98, while for the same in Palawan, it is more than three times the price at RM1,368.58.

This cost comparison report does not include the value and drawing power of Penang’s world famous street food. For this reason, the Penang state government has made tough pro-active decisions to preserve the unique heritage of our street-food by barring foreign workers as cooks in our hawker stalls and that it must be cooked by Malaysians. Hawker licenses throughout Malaysia are expected to be owner-operated because they are reserved for lower-income Malaysians. For this reason since Merdeka, foreigners are not given the privilege nor the right to be approved hawker licenses. However, allowance is given to foreign workers to assist these Malaysian hawkers.

There is nothing discriminatory about barring foreign workers from being cooks only at hawker stalls because hawker licenses are granted for lower-income Malaysians and supposed to be owner-operated, whilst this ruling does not bar foreigners from owning restaurants nor prevent foreign workers from cooking in restaurants. How can this ruling be undemocratic or discriminatory when it is intended to protect the uniqueness of Penang food, that hawker stalls must be owner-operated and that foreign workers can assist the hawker in other duties?

There is also no question of the human rights of foreign workers being denied their right to cook. Foreign workers cook or wash plates, regardless of whether they know or not know how to, only because they are ordered by their employers to do so. Telling foreign workers that they can not cook in hawker stalls is not denying their rights or depriving them of their passion for cooking because they are indifferent – it is a job not of their choice, but the decision of their employer. Further, any culinary skills these foreign workers acquire would be lost because foreign workers will have to return home after a period of time.

This ruling only bars foreign workers in hawker stalls, not in other job sectors like restaurants. This ruling does not prevent Malaysians from other states from getting hawker licenses and operating hawker stalls so long as they are Malaysian citizens.

It is ridiculous to allege double-standards that this ruling means that Penang hawkers can not then sell pizza, spaghetti, tomyam or sushi just because we want to maintain the local flavour of Penang food. Hawkers, but not foreign workers, can sell any food they wish. Everyone knows when you eat sushi or pizza in Penang, it is not cooked locally but there is an expectation that when you eat Penang famous street food in Penang, it should be cooked by locals.

We understand the opinion of those who wants market forces to decide by forcing out of business the hawker stalls, where indifferent foreign workers serve lousy food. However food is uniquely important in Penang, where it is rated as the best in the world, until it is one of the main if not the main attraction for tourists. Unlike other cities, tourists come to Penang for food, and the state government is not going to risk our tourism industry by allowing indifferent foreign workers to jeorpardise the branding of delicious Penang street food.

Ultimately it is all about the branding of Penang food. The unique taste and flavour of Penang food should not be put at risk by indifferent foreign workers doing a job instructed by their employer. If we want the unique taste and world-class quality of Penang food to be maintained, then we must start now to ensure that locals and Malaysians must take over as cooks, and not through relying on indifferent foreign workers, whose skills would be lost when they return home.

Hopefully this ruling to be enforced fully in 2016 after a one-year grace period, will give prominence and publicity to young Malaysians, that one can become wealthy and even famous if we master the culinary skills of famous hawker food in Penang.

LIM GUAN ENG

— CN version —

槟州首席部长林冠英於2014年10月26日在乔治市光大发表声明:
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禁止移工代替小贩掌厨並未涉及歧视问题,事缘小贩执照仅发於低收入大马公民,所有执照持有者理当亲自作业,不能假手于人。与此同时,政府並没有禁止外国人开设餐馆,或限制移工在餐厅内掌厨。
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槟州政府感到十分荣幸,因为世界顶级的旅游指南网站TripAdvisor把槟城列为马来西亚内最让人负担得起的岛屿排行榜。此成绩由TripIndex岛屿阳光的第二份常年报告书所评选,有关单位以两位游客加总开销为基准,比较了东南亚16个岛屿的日常开销与住宿消费后,所得出的结果。

槟岛以TripIndex 1183令吉96仙的成绩,位列第九。热浪岛排第十一、刁曼岛十二,紧接下来为浮罗交怡。开销分别是1425令吉、1504令吉56仙以及1587令吉72仙。槟城四星级酒店房间也是最可负担,仅395令吉98仙。而在Palawan,同等的房间是槟城的3倍,达1368令吉58仙。

这份报告评比并未涵盖槟城美食的价值与绘制出其世界级的魅力。职是之故,槟州政府议决主动出击,透过禁止移工代替在地小贩掌厨,以便保护我们街头美食,捍卫这份独特的历史遗产。我国所发放的小贩执照,必须由申请者亲自作业,其立意是在帮助低等收入的马来西亚人。有鉴于此,自独立以降,我们的小贩执照从未发放予外国人,惟,外籍移工可以从旁协助大马小贩。

禁止移工代替小贩掌厨並未涉及歧视问题,事缘小贩执照仅发於低收入大马公民,所有执照持有者理当亲自作业,不能假手于人。与此同时,政府並没有禁止外国人开设餐馆,或限制移工在餐厅内掌厨。当我们一心一意想要保护槟城美食特质,要求小贩必须亲自操刀,而移工只能从旁协助的时候,怎能被指摘为不民主与歧视?

说外籍移工的人权如烹调的权利被侵害也是言过其实的说法。移工掌厨或清洗杯盘,不管擅长与否,都仅仅是因为老板吩咐,他们才付诸行动。告诉移工他们不能代替小贩掌厨非拒绝或剥削他们的权益与烹调的热情,因为这是不一样的,对他们而言,这是一份老板决定性质的工作,而不是一种选择。再者,即便这些移工掌握了老板的烹饪技巧,他日也必然会在本地消失,因为他们始终会有回家的一天。

政府只是禁止移工代替小贩掌厨,餐厅並不在限制之内。政府也未阻止其他州属的人民申请在槟城当小贩,只要是马来西亚公民,皆能在槟城营业。

至於那些持双重标准的控诉,指槟城小贩今后也不能贩卖披萨、意大利麵、冬炎或寿司,因为我们要保护原汁原味的槟城美食一事,是十分荒谬的。事实上,除了外籍移工,所有小贩都可以自由贩卖他们想要烹调的食物。所有人都知道,当你在槟城大快朵颐,吃下寿司或披萨的时候,这些都不是本地制作的,但,当你在品尝槟州的槟城街头美食之际,你就会预期这是本地人的精心制作。

我们明白那些提出由市场决定小贩退场的意见,即让市场的力量停止移工做出不当的食物。无论如何,对槟城而言,这里的美食是极为重要的,它甚至被评比为“全世界最佳”,是吸引游客前来槟城最主要或其中一个重要的原因。我们不像其他城市,游客到此一游往往是为了槟城美食,州政府不能冒险地让移工坏了槟城美食的金招牌。

简而言之,一切终究都是为了槟城美食的金字招牌。这些舌尖上独特的槟城美食风味,不应该也不能让遵从老板指示的移工所操刀。如果我们想要保持世界级的水准及独特的风味,那我们从现在开始就应该未雨绸缪,让在地人或马来西亚人掌厨,不能再依赖移工,避免有天他们归期到了,把技艺也一起带走。

政府希望一年的宽限期后,在2016年能够全面执行这项禁令。我们也会向国内年轻人积极宣导,如果我们掌握槟城小贩烹调的美食功夫,一样会为自己带来名利。

林冠英

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