PUTRAJAYA: A total of 39,046 Indian nationals had “gone missing” in Malaysia after their tourist visas expired, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday.
The prime minister said they had gone missing from the Immigration Department’s records, according to an estimate drawn up in June.
That was why the department was not keen on visa-on-arrival for Indians as the facility had been abused, especially by those from Chennai, he said.
“Those who came to Malaysia through the visa-on-arrival (VOI) facility could be back in India or among the people here, (maybe) working in Indian restaurants.
“We don’t know where these people are. They’re probably still in Malaysia for economic reasons,” he said in an interview with visiting Indian journalists at his office here.
Najib said he might take up the issue during his three-day official visit to India beginning on Tuesday. He said Malaysia had allowed priests and barbers from India to come and work in the country.
“We would like Indian people to visit Malaysia as tourists. We have been quite liberal. We want genuine ones. They are most welcome.
“We are willing to consider reintroducing the VOI scheme for people coming from Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi, but not from Chennai.The problem of overstaying is only from those from Chennai.” Cases of foreigners abusing the VOA have been a problem since it was introduced.
Between September 2006 and September 2008, 75,645 of the 248,939 foreigners who were issued VOA misused their visas.
They were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Asked whether the government would hold any dialogue with the banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), he said many people had realised that the group had “really exaggerated and manipulated the situation” of the ethnic Indian minority.
He said most Indians in the country wanted the government to be sensitive to their needs and the government had been respons i ve .
“We have attended to a lot of the Indian problems and Hindraf has not been an important force in Malaysian politics.” Asked about the move by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to appoint a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir, he said any follow-up actionwould be possible only if India and Pakistan were ag reeable.
“Malaysia feels that the issue should be settled through negotiations. ” — Bernama