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KL vows to tackle abuse of Indonesian workers

Written By Syafrein Effendiuz on 29/08/07 | Rabu, Ogos 29, 2007

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Malaysia has promised to punish those responsible for a string of attacks on Indonesian maids and the recent assault of an Indonesian karate referee, while expressing its commitment to provide legal protection for all Indonesians working in the country.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said here Tuesday that Malaysia would not let isolated cases of violence on Indonesian citizens harm its long-standing bilateral relations with Indonesia, or the contributions some 1.5 million Indonesian migrant workers have made to both countries.

"What is important is that we take action to eliminate abuses and violence against migrant workers, and that we have the laws to prevent these abuses from taking place," he told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on 50 years of Indonesia-Malaysia relations at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta.

The seminar was jointly organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Indonesia and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia.

Hamid Albar said his government has investigated all of the reported abuse cases, including the incident involving Indonesia's chief karate referee, Donald Peter Luther Kolopita.

Four plainclothes Malaysian police officers jumped from a van and tried to arrest Donald last Friday in the town of Nilai. Donald allegedly resisted and was forcibly taken into custody.

He suffered extensive injuries to his body and face in the incident.

In protest, Indonesia's karate team, which was there to participate in an Asian karate championship, boycotted the competition and returned home immediately.

The incident occurred just days after an Indonesian maid was allegedly tortured to death by a Malaysian couple.

The 24-year-old maid, identified as Kunarsih from Demak, Central Java, was found dead in her room two weeks ago after suffering blunt force injuries to the chest and abdomen.

The couple has been detained by police pending an investigation.

Abuse by Malaysian employers against Indonesian migrant workers has claimed numerous lives in recent years. This year alone, 21 Indonesian workers have died after suffering at the hands of their employers.

Of the approximately 1.5 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, more than 300,000 are employed as maids.

While Malaysian officials have claimed the mistreatment of domestic helpers is not widespread, some 1,500 Indonesian maids run away from their employers every month, often because of abuse or dissatisfaction with long working hours, a lack of freedom or unpaid salaries.

Kunarsih's death came a day after another Indonesian maid climbed out the window of a 17th-story apartment in Kuala Lumpur to escape her employer, who allegedly choked her and beat her with a rattan stick.

In June, the spectacular escape of 33-year-old Ceriyati Dapin, an Indonesian housekeeper who made headlines when she used a makeshift rope to flee a 15th-story apartment after allegedly having been beaten and threatened with death by her employer, highlighted the fate of many Indonesian workers abroad.

Hamid Albar said Indonesia should see the problem in the wider picture, and not jump to conclusions based on a few abuse cases highlighted by the media.

All the speakers at the seminar, however, warned that besides border issues, worker problems could become a stumbling block for Indonesia and Malaysia relations if not addressed quickly and properly. [The Jakarta Post]

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