I urge Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Berhad (PUNB) and Jabatan Insolvensi Malaysia to resolve the case of outstanding wages and compensation owed to the 7 ex-employees of Qarira Packaging (M) Sdn. Bhd.

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, in Kuala Lumpur, on the 20th of June, 2013

QARIRA PACKAGING (M) SDN. BHD. (‘QPMSB’, company no. 396860-K), was established in 1997 in Johor Bahru as a tin can manufacturer. It was a joint venture by Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Berhad (PUNB), Pacific Can Investment Holdings of Singapore and Qarira Holdings Sdn Bhd with PUNB being the majority shareholder.

Because of mounting financial losses, Qarira was forced to wind up in 2010. As part of the process of winding up, Qarira Packaging (M) Sdn. Bhd., promised to pay compensation to its former workers. I have been informed that there are currently 7 former workers who were owed a total of RM182,489.70 by Qarira Packaging (M) Sdn Bhd, as decided by the High Court of Malaya in Johor Bahru and acknowledged by the Johor Bahru branch of the Malaysian Department of Insolvency. Unfortunately, to date, these 7 ex-workers have only been paid RM81,693.82 or only 44% of what is owed to them. These 7 ex-workers are still owed RM100,795.88. (See Table 1)

Table 1: Amount owed, already paid and still unpaid to 7 ex-workers of Qarira Packaging (M) Sdn Bhd

In January 2011, the workers found out that Qarira Packaging (M) Sdn Bhd has sold some of its machines for a sum of RM642,641.32 and had turned over this sum of money to the Johor Bahru branch of the Malaysian Department of Insolvency. The workers then wrote letters to the Johor Bahru branch of the Malaysian Department of Insolvency, asking why the proceeds from the sale of the machines was not used to pay the compensation owed to them.

In its reply dated 5 May 2011, the Johor Bahru branch of the Malaysian Department of Insolvency explained that this sum of money was to be paid to PUNB who are the debenture holders for these machines. However, in a letter dated 19 July 2011, PUNB, in replying to a letter to the then Johor Jaya state assemblyman, Tan Cher Puk, who was looking into this case on behalf of the abovementioned 7 workers, said that to date they had still not received any money from the Malaysian Department of Insolvency. In the same letter, PUNB also defended itself by saying that it was only exercising its rights as a debenture holder in claiming the sum of RM642,641.32 from the sale of the machines, and it therefore believed that QPMSB should be fully responsible for paying compensation to the workers.

However, as of 2013 the 7 ex-workers of QPMSB have still not received the compensation owed to them. Recently, one of the workers, Zamri bin Suliman, wrote another letter on March 25, 2013 to the current Chairman of PUNB, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, to request his help in resolving this issue. To date, he has not received any reply from the PUNB chairman or any PUNB representatives.

I understand that according to the law, PUNB has a legitimate claim on the sale of the QPMSB’s assets in its role as QPMSB’s main creditor. However, the welfare of QPMSB’s ex-employees is no less important, especially as this involves the livelihoods of low-income ex-employees, the oldest of whom is 68 years old now and is still working in a factory near Seri Kembangan. Without the cooperation of the Malaysian Department of Insolvency and PUNB, the ex-employees have no further recourse as QPMSB is a non-operating company and clearly unable to compensate them.

I call upon PUNB and the Malaysian Department of Insolvency to investigate and clarify whether or not the RM642,641.32 proceeds from the sale of machines belonging to Qarira Packaging (M) Sdn Bhd was indeed paid to PUNB.

I also appeal to PUNB on humanitarian grounds to consider the plight of QPMSB’s 7 ex-employees, in the interest of their welfare and that of their families. I hope that PUNB will act accordingly and channel the proceeds of the sale of QPMSB’s machines towards the ex-employees’ compensation claims so that this case can be settled once and for all.