KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon/Marianas Variety, Jan. 29) - The Ministry of Commerce and Trade says it has lifted the moratorium on the hiring of Sri-Lankan, Indian and Bangladeshi nationals.

But Commerce and Trade Minister Otoichi Besebes said the hiring of workers from these South Asian countries is still restricted.

Besebes was responding to Del. Joel Toribiong, who questioned the hiring moratorium. The ban on the hiring of Sri Lankans and Indians was imposed in July 2001, while a temporary suspension was enforced on the hiring of Bangladeshis starting 1998.

Besebes said he has started allowing the employment of Sri-Lankan, Indian and Bangladeshi nationals on a "case-to-case basis."

Toribiong said the ban is an indication of religious and racial prejudice.

"The Constitution guarantees equal protection and the government cannot subject people to discrimination based on their place of origin or religion," Toribiong said.

He said the citizens of these South Asian nations should not be punished by the wrongdoing of a few.

"Certainly no one is claiming that some nationals of these countries caused problems in Palau," he said. "However, the lawlessness of a few does not give us license to discriminate against entire nationalities," Toribiong said in his letter to Besebes.

But Besebes said the moratorium was not intended as a discriminatory action against any nationals or nations.

The ban was imposed to solve a problem at the time it was enforced, he said.

He cited the high cost of repatriating foreign workers once problems with employers arise.

The ministry also takes into consideration the financial conditions of potential employers before they allow the hiring of alien workers, Besebes said.

January 29, 2003

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ Marianas Variety. 

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