1 of 60 workers at Baleh Hydroelectric Project site without work permits tests positive for Covid-19, investigation underway

A completed part of the Baleh HEP. (File photo)

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KUCHING, April 29: Sarawak Energy Berhad (Sarawak Energy) launched an investigation into the Baleh Hydroelectric Project (HEP) site after 60 of its contractor workers were suspected of being employed without the necessary permits.

Minister for Ministry of Utilities Sarawak Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom in a press statement today said during a recent test conducted (April 18) following an outbreak of Covid-19 at the project site, the company discovered that 60 contractor workers of the 970 workers at the Baleh site did not have the necessary work permits.

According to him, all have been expelled and escorted from the Baleh site by Immigration officers on April 24, and one tested positive for Covid-19 and is receiving the required medical care.

“Sarawak Energy has assured the Ministry that an investigation has been launched and a physical site compliance audit will be carried out as soon as the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) is lifted, as part of the efforts to enforce Sarawak Energy’s zero tolerance for workers without valid permits at site.

“All errant contractors found to have been employing workers without valid work permits will be dealt with severely as communicated to the contractors,” he said.

On April 18, a local from the Kapit area who had returned to work at the Baleh site was subsequently confirmed as a positive case as a result of contact with two Pasai Cluster cases. Mass testing immediately commenced and detected a high number of positive cases amongst workers at the project site.

The site emergency response plan was activated and Baleh site was immediately placed on lock down even before the EMCO was declared. Work at the site has stopped and all workers have been either segregated into onsite quarantine centres or confined to their camps or living quarters, while those who have tested positive undergoing isolation and are being given the necessary medical care.

On the same note, Rundi said while the investigation progresses, the Baleh HEP Project team will also increase surveillance of its contractor camps with more frequent audit and spot checks on the workers and security personnel stationed at site.

He pointed out that these will complement the regular joint operations between Sarawak Energy, the Sarawak Immigration Department and the Police to screen workers without valid work permits at Baleh site.

“As a wholly government owned company and under the purview of my Ministry, Sarawak Energy has zero tolerance for the employment of workers without valid permits whether foreign or local. All contractors and their staff are required to comply strictly to the laws and regulations of Sarawak and Malaysia.

“Details of Labour Engagement and Work Permit requirements are specified in the contract document between Sarawak Energy and the respective contractors and included in Sarawak Energy’s contracts and procurement criteria and processes, procedures and guidelines. This is communicated to and reinforced with all contractors,” he added. — DayakDaily