August 15, 2002

Malaysian caning of Indonesians inhuman and degrading: Activist

JAKARTA (JP): The director of the Medan branch of the Legal Aid Institute, Irham Buana Nasution, says the caning of illegal Indonesian workers in Malaysia is inhumane and an insult to the Indonesian nation.
"The caning is disrespectful to Indonesia," Nasution told the Antara news agency in Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra, on Wednesday.
The number of illegal Indonesian workers arrested and caned by Malaysian police has reportedly increased following the enforcement of tough new immigration laws.
In Sarawak, Kelantan, Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan, Sabah, Trengganu, Penang, Kinibalu and other areas, thousands of illegal Indonesian workers have reportedly been arrested in a sweep, code-named "Closed Operation", launched on Aug. 9.
In Selangor, four illegal Indonesian workers have been caned, while hundreds are awaiting repatriation by the Indonesian government.
Nasution said the Indonesian government should not allow the illegal workers to be treated brutally. "All right, the Malaysian government has the right to impose punishment in its own country. But that does not mean Indonesian workers can be caned and treated like criminals."
Earlier, a lawyer in Medan, Aldian Pinem, urged the Indonesian government to take the necessary steps to prevent the workers from being caned.
"The violent treatment of illegal Indonesian workers should be protested," he said, adding the methods would not solve the problem for the Malaysian government.
House speaker Akbar Tandjung on Tuesday accused the government of ineptitude in handling the return of the fleeing workers from Malaysia.

August 13, 2002

Amnesty urges Malaysia to stop whipping illegals

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Amnesty International urged Malaysia on Tuesday to stop using whipping as a punishment, after several illegal immigrants were sentenced to caning in the past week.
Around half an estimated 600,000 illegals left the country before the government's four-month amnesty ended on July 31, according to the human rights group.
Since then around a dozen, mostly Indonesians, have been sentenced to one or two strokes of the cane and jail terms of up to two years.
"Whipping someone is cruel, inhuman and degrading," Amnesty International said in a statement.
"Such a punishment should have no place in the world today," it said, adding that caning was unlikely to deter economic migrants or asylum seekers.
Recent changes to the Immigration Act prescribe mandatory whipping of up to six strokes, fines and up to five years imprisonment. Anyone who employs workers without papers is liable to the same punishments.
One of Malaysia's main foreign policy concerns is how to stop its nation of 23 million people being inundated with immigrants from poorer, more populous neighbours.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri discussed the issue when they met in Bali last week
Malaysian construction firms have complained of a shortage of labourers since the drive began to get immigrants to go home.
Most of the country's large plantation firms employ foreign workers through legal channels, but vegetable farms and horticulture could be hit harder, and hotels and restaurants may find casual labour in shorter supply.
Caning is a supplementary punishment for at least 40 crimes in Malaysia, but it was only used 13 times last year in cases ranging from rape to drug possession, according to local rights group Suaram.