Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Madani Government must resolve politico-religious immigration faux pas – J.D. Lovrenciear

Madani Government must resolve politico-religious immigration faux pas – J.D. Lovrenciear

Why do a few nuns face difficulty getting visas for caregiving work when millions of migrants are allowed in?

26 Dec 2023 3:20PM

A recent Christmas celebration at the Little Sisters of the Poor home for the aged in Penang which is unable to bring in foreign nuns to provide care for its elderly and infirm residents. Facebook-Pertubuhan Kebajikan Setia Ikhlas pic.

THE authorities certainly owe senior citizens an explanation. The Madani Government which extols care and compassion as pillars for nationhood should act decisively and convincingly.

The case in question refers to a news published by The Vibes, ‘Residents of Catholic home surmount loneliness, old age with poignant Christmas celebration,’ yesterday.

The universally acclaimed Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who provide care for the elderly poor in over 30 countries worldwide, has been struggling with human capital deprivation here in Penang at its elderly caregiving home in Batu Lanchang.

According to the news report, the average age of the residents here is 70. The oldest is 93 and has lived at the home for the past 33 years.

The Catholic Church is unable to bring in for the 64 inhouse residents of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Penang the much-needed foreign Catholic nuns who are specially trained and have dedicated their life to care for the elderly poor.

"The nuns at this Catholic institution in Penang are now down to less than ten. One of them is 103 years old, and several others are also ageing,” reveals the news portal.

A Google search further reveals that this frustrating handicap raining down on the caregiving facility is not new.

While the Catholic Church in Malaysia may meekly state the problem as "technical hiccups with the immigration authorities in bringing foreign nuns", netizens and concerned communities are left wondering, and in all likelihood even speculating, whether there is more than meets the eye as to why such a problem persists.

Nuns evidently denied entry

In a country where we have no problems in allowing 2.2 million migrant workers to come, stay and work to build our economy (not forgetting another 1.2 to 3.5 million undocumented migrants), why are the desperately needed dozen or less foreign nuns being denied entry with ease?

Malaysia is one of the largest migrant-receiving countries in Southeast Asia and yet the home for the elderly poor is facing "technical hiccups with the immigration authorities in bringing (in) foreign nuns".

Previous news reports (FMT and Malaysiakini) that can be sourced on the Internet state that the foreign nuns who work for free need to constantly renew their work or visitor visas.

What is evident is that the trained, qualified, and dedicated caregiver nuns are even denied entry into the country.

In fact, Christopher Kushi, the legal adviser to Roman Catholic cardinal Rev Datuk Seri Sebastian Francis, is "hoping that the authorities can help the home to allow the entry of foreign nuns".

The question is: would not the services of these un-salaried nuns be invaluable, given the fact that Malaysia is on the way to becoming an ageing nation by 2030?

Twenty-nine countries pose no problem, but in Malaysia the nuns are putting up with an imposed handicap to give care.

We approve untrained, unskilled labour force by the millions. We readily approve foreign brains hired to work here.

But the handful of dedicated women from the order of the Catholic mission who are specially trained and dedicated to handle the plight of the aged, particularly those who do not have families or friends to care for them, cannot get work or entry visas easily.

The Catholic mission that runs a mere two free homes for the aged and the destitute in Kuala Lumpur and Penang has appealed to the government to consider giving longer visas to its caretaker nuns and to reduce the red tape in getting them.

Seeming agenda at work

Let us backtrack to the past records. The nuns received ten-year visas in the 1990s. But this practice was slowly reduced to five years and then three years.

The question is why?

It seems that getting long-term visas under the ‘religious’ category is denied by immigration, citing "many" reasons.

This problem in allowing a dozen or two religious nuns to provide the free, dedicated and highly skilled caregiving jeopardises about 165 citizens in the country.

The fact is the French mission that manages the two homes are not even asking for taxpayers' budget allocations from the government, but solely rely on donations and alms from churchgoers to carry out their caregiving obligations and activities.

Currently, it has four nuns from Singapore, Sri Lanka, and South Korea.

The chief caretaker of the Penang home, a Samoan-Australian, was forced to retire as there were issues with her visa.

Obviously, this problem is not a new issue. Historic data indicates there has been a seeming agenda at work.

What then is this plot is what netizens and Christians are asking.

Appeals after appeals to various ministries and including prime ministers in the past have been met with silence.

As we witness the Madani powered leadership plough ahead in wanting to make care and compassion the stronger pillars in reconstructing the values in nationhood, will it provide meaningful change and facilitate various religious communities like the Little Sisters of the Poor to carry out their social obligations with ease?

Hopefully as we enter the new year of 2024, we will see immigration resets that can add value, especially in this area of providing free, value-centric, and meaningful service in a nation that is reeling fast towards becoming an ageing population six years from now.

As one Paul Arokiasamy wrote (Letter to Editor, Malaysiakini, September 2019), when 'Malaysia My Second Home' can be promoted vigorously and visas granted with ease, why the policy faux pas when it comes to granting a dozen or less long-stay visas for these nuns who fulfil voluntary social service without taking a single sen as salary or perks? -- The Vibes, December 26, 2023

J.D. Lovrenciear reads The Vibes


  1. The facts of the matter are that Anwar Madani has fully taken on board Race and Religious Supremacist policies and politicians.

  2. First and foremost elderly people are better in the hands of big sisters and not little sisters brought in by the French mission. We have lots of young people who can be trained in the care of the elderly and there are many benevolent Christians who are ready to contribute. The French mission sounds a little like colonialists trying to justify their raison d'Γͺtre, whether they forego a salary like someone higher up. It would be better to train young immigrants for this job instead of giving work visa to to some elderly little sisters. They don't know anything about life after death.