KOTA BHARU, Sept 7 (Sin Chew Daily) — Facing acute shortage of labour, a company based in Kelantan collaborates with the prison by hiring inmates instead of migrant workers to plant Japanese rock melon, creating a win-win for all.
The collaboration does not only reduce El Matta Sdn Bhd’s dependency on foreign workers but also create job opportunities for prisoners.
After many rounds of meetings with the prison authorities, the half acre of land at Pengkalan Chepa prison is now full of Japanese rock melons ready for harvest.
Kelantan Prison director Senior Assistant Commissioner Mat Yaacob said inmates involved in the planting project are those granted parole and released on licence programme (those who were sentenced to less than one year’s jail).
A total of 148 inmates granted parole are required to report to the Parole Department regularly.
50 of them and another 12 inmates from the Pengkalan Chepa prison took part in the planting project.
Mat Yaakon said inmates who had been granted parole and placed under the release on licence programme were allowed to take part in agricultural, livestock, manufacturing and other skills training programmes.
Many of them have opted to remain in the company which offers them the training after their release from the prison.
“Employers have to comply with the minimum wage scheme of RM1,200 in Kota Bharu district to be paid to the inmates, he said at a ceremony to witness the harvest which was also attended by El Matta Sdn Bhd director of operations Bok Chee Kit and others from the company.
Mat was happy that only 0.8% of inmates placed under the licence programme returned to prison after their release.
Mat said the collaboration with El Matta was a long-term planting project and he happy with the harvest of 4,000 Japanese rock melons.
Bok said the company offered technical guidance and also agricultural supplies for inmates in the planting project. The company also bought the harvest which created income for the prison as well as the inmates joining the project.
El Matta Sdn Bhd plans to recruit more inmates in September due to the encouraging response.
“Our costs have gone up slightly but the inmates have helped solve the manpower shortage problem we face in the plantation. We are glad the prison authorities trust us,’’ he said.
Apart from planting Japanese rock melon in Pengkalan Chepa prison, El Matta also plants tomato, Japanese cucumber, Japanese sweet potato, corn and other crops in Lojing Highlands, along with local greens such as bitter guards, lady fingers and long beans in Cherang Ruku, Pasir Putih. Kelantan.
“We are also appointed by the Kelantan Prisons Department to set up a training centre on livestock breeding for inmates to learn the breeding skills and slaughter techniques meeting the halal requirements, so that they can be financially independent once they are released from the prison,’’ he said.