6 Feb 2007

Marshall Islands business owner rejects Attorney-General's criticisms

11:31 am on 6 February 2007

The head of the Marshall Islands biggest construction company is rejecting comments by the Attorney-General that private sector criticism of new alien labour laws is patronising.

The owner of Pacific International Incorporated, Jerry Kramer, says he and others were actually invited by the Ministry of Resources and Development to take part in a working group and submit recommendations, few of which appeared in the final version of the law.

Mr Kramer is stunned by the penalties which include long jail sentences for both employee and employer if a foreign worker is found without a correct permit and heavy fines.

He says while the government wants to deal with Chinese overstayers, there is a skilled foreign workforce which is in the country legitimately.

Mr Kramer says a delegation went to see the Foreign Minister, Gerald Zackios, who agreed that there were some difficulties with the law.

"He has given the private sector the opportunity to review the bill in detail and to comment on it item by item and that's really what we're doing right now so he immediately, automatically renewed all permits till June."

Mr Kramer says a submission on the changes that the private sector believes are needed to the law will be on the Foreign Minister's desk in a week.