Dismissing reports of a freeze on recruitment of workers from India, Malaysia on Wednesday insisted that it never made a ruling to this effect.
"Let me state categorically that the home ministry has never come out with any ruling that we have stopped the intake of foreign workers from India," Malaysian Home Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad told reporters.
He said he was not aware where these reports came from. "This has disturbed us a lot," he said.
Meanwhile, India's Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi too said that he had received information from the Indian High Commission in Malaysia that the news regarding the ban on Indian workers was false.
Ravi assured that he was in touch with his counterpart in Malaysia and also the Indian High Commission regarding the issue and added the Indian workers need not worry. He added that he had every reason to believe the Malaysian government.
Ravi said that there are around 1.5 lakh (150,000) Indian workers in Malaysia and the Indian government was doing everything in its capacity to ensure their safety and welfare. He said that talks had recently been held with the Malaysian government regarding the stabilization of the wages of the Indian workers.
The minister admitted that he too was taken aback when the news regarding the ban initially came out, especially since the talks regarding this issue had been fruitful.
He, however, added that at the moment there is nothing for Indian in Malaysia to be worried about.
The news reports about the ban came during a visit by Defence Minister A K Antony to Malaysia, triggering a furor in India. Malaysian Works Minister Samy Vellu, who is in New Delhi to attend the conference of overseas Indians, had denied the reports on Tuesday itself.
Vellu, also the president of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) -- a component of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, said that he had contacted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and home ministry secretary-general to get a clearer picture on the issue.
"It is not true. There is no such thing," Vellu told reporters when asked about the reports of freeze on employment of Indian workers.
The Malaysian home minister, however, felt that the confusion could have been caused following a ruling that the country was going to temporarily ban workers from Bangladesh.
Earlier, reports said that Malaysia had frozen the recruitment of Indian workers, including temple priests, sculptors and musicians, a move apparently linked to the recent mass protests by the ethnic Indians here against their alleged marginalisation.
Workers from India will not be recruited, according to an official circular, news reports had said.
MoU to regulate Indians' employment needed
Meanwhile, Malaysia has conveyed to New Delhi that it wanted an early agreement to regulate such employment in that country.
Defence Minister AK Antony who returned from Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday said that the Malaysian government was unhappy over the delay in signing a proposed memoranda of understanding that would regulate the employment conditions and welfare of Indian workers in Malaysia and Malaysian nationals in India.
"This topic came up during my discussions with the Malaysian foreign minister as well as the prime minister," Antony told newspersons on the sidelines of a function to launch the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
Asked if the move by Kuala Lumpur to ban recruitment of workers from India figured in his talks, Antony said "nobody raised the issue."
He termed his interaction with the Malaysian leaders as "very fruitful".
"We focused on expanding defence cooperation and the Malaysian leaders were very positive on this."
Additonal inputs from PTI