January 22, 2002

Indonesia apologizes for rioting workers in Malaysia

On behalf of the government, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Jacob Nua Wea made an apology to the Malaysian government for the violent riot in which some 400 Indonesian workers in a textile factory ran amok in a town outside of Kuala Lumpur last Thursday, sparked by the arrest of 16 Indonesians on alleged drug charges.
"The government regrets the incident and we hope the Malaysian government will retract its recent penalty imposed on Indonesian workers employed in that country because the two countries's people are brothers," he told The Jakarta Post by telephone here on Monday.
Some 400 Indonesian textile workers staged a violent rampage in protest of the arrests, directing their anger at Malaysian police. The workers employed by Hualon Corporation SDN Bhd, a textile industry in Negeri Sembilan state, overturned several vehicles, ransacked facilities at their dormitory and jeered security personnel deployed to handle the angry mob.
The incident was the fourth of its kind in the last three years. Previously, in December, hundreds of Indonesian workers burned down a detention camp in Johor as their way of protesting deportation.
Another 70 Indonesian construction workers armed with machetes went on rampage and damaged food stalls run by fellow Indonesians at a Malaysian township late Sunday, police said Monday.
No injuries were reported in the incident at Cyberjaya, south of the capital, but five food stalls were destroyed, central Selangor state acting police chief Fauzi Saari was quoted by AFP as saying.
The workers and stall operators were from the Indonesian province of Aceh, he said, adding that police had yet to make any arrests.
He said the rampage was triggered by a quarrel between an Indonesian and a Bangladeshi at one of the stalls.
Police were now monitoring places where there were large numbers of Indonesian workers, he added.
Following the (Thursday's) incident, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called on Malaysian employers to put Indonesia on the bottom of their lists when recruiting foreign workers. He said his government would give priority to workers from countries other than Indonesia.
The Malaysian police have arrested at least 28 workers who were involved in the most recent incident and they are now being investigated by police.
Jacob insisted that the Indonesian government could not interfere in Malaysian law to provide protection for workers arrested because of their involvement in the rampage.
"Malaysia has its own law, our government cannot interfere with the Malaysian authorities' investigation into all the suspects in the incident. But, we do not want the incident to create negative impacts for other Indonesian workers employed in that country and to afflict the two countries' good relations," he said.
Some 700,000 Indonesian workers are employed in plantation, construction, industrial and informal sectors and a part of those working in the informal sector are employed as domestic helpers. Besides, hundreds of thousands of others who have migrated illegally through the Malacca Strait or the border between Kalimantan and East Malaysia, live in that country without any necessary documents, such as a passport or a working visa.
Currently some 5,400 Indonesian workers are being detained in a number of immigration detention centers in Malaysia for having entered illegally. They are scheduled to be deported to Indonesia by the end of February, 2002, at the cost of the Malaysian government. Malaysian authorities have, in recent years, deported tens of thousands of Indonesian job seekers for similar violations.
Indonesian people prefer to work in Malaysia since, in addition to the scarcity of work here and higher wages there, they have felt that Malaysia is like their "second home" because of the similar race (Malaysia is roughly 60 percent ethnic Malay), language and religion. Many who have stayed for more than 10 years in that country have created their own groups such as Kampong Jawa and Kampong Madura in Kuala Lumpur and Johar Baru. During the New Order era, they also participated in Malaysian elections to support Mahathir's regime.
Jacob said further he would leave for Malaysia immediately to meet with his Malaysian counterpart and other officials to discuss the incident and the planned deportation of the illegal migrants to Indonesia.
He also called on authorities at home to join forces to prevent Indonesian people from migrating to Malaysia illegally because such an illegal migration would bring suffering to the people.
"Local authorities in regions where job seekers come from and immigration officers should be selective in giving documents, while police and the Navy should net unauthorized brokers who have smuggled the job seekers in an attempt to minimize the risk," he said.
Separately, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda concurred and said the trouble should not be extended to other Indonesians employed in that country.
"We hope the handling of the riot will be limited only to those involved in the incident who must accept any possible penalties imposed against them," he said after accompanying UN Human Rights Commission Chairman Leandro Despouy to meet with President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the State Palace on Monday.
He also hoped the incident would not negatively affect the two countries' ties.

24 January 2002

What apology, asks puzzled Indon ambassador

Hadi claims to have no knowledge of apology over Indon rioters
By Firdaus Abdullah

As the Indonesian Government is reported to have reiterated its apology to Kuala Lumpur over the ill-behaviour of its citizens, the republic's ambassador here Hadi Wayarabi Alhadar today denied official knowledge of the apology.
"I have just been given the news article ... I have no knowledge of the apology," Hadi told a Press conference at the Indonesian Embassy here this morning.
Hadi also had no information of news reports which stated that his government had depatched two low-level officials here to convey the apology and help ease the recurring problems involving Indonesian workers.
Indonesian Manpower minister Jacob Nuwa Wea was reported as saying today that the Government had despatched a director from the manpower ministry and a former labour attache to Kuala Lumpur.
The report from Jakarta also quoted Nuwa Wea as saying that the Indonesian Government would provide adequate legal defence for any Indonesian worker facing legal action in Malaysia.
While the apology itself seems not to have reached the Malaysian government in an acceptable manner, the junior minister was also reported to have urged Kuala Lumpur not to act indiscriminately against Indonesian workers here.
Wisma Putra officials could not be reached for comments but it was reliably understood that the Malaysian government was not very happy with certain remarks from Jakarta.
At the Press conference, Hadi gave an undertaking that the remaining 700,000-odd Indonesian workers in Malaysia will be closely monitored through regular meetings with employers.
Officials from the Indonesian embassy here will also visit work places and conduct briefings for their citizens, he said.
For a start embassy officials will visit the workers at factories and construction sites.
"Our officials will visit and talk to as many workers as possible...we will convey the official stand and directive from the Government.
"We will also be writing to employers to seek for their co-operation in this matter," he said.
Hadi said apart from despatching additional officials from its embassy here, officials from the Indonesian Consul General's office in Johor Bahru, Penang and Kota Kinabalu will also actively keep tabs on Indonesian workers nationwide.
"I profoundly regret what happened in Nilai and Kampung Limau Manis," he said. "It should not have happened at all because the Malaysian people and the Government have been very accommodating all this while.
"We have taken the necessary steps including a more stringent workers recruitment process back home and an awareness programme for those who are already here," he said.
Advising Indonesian workers here to abide by the laws of Malaysia and refrain from indulging in unhealthy activities which could ruin bilateral relations, Hadi said he would also be seeking approval to disseminate official advice and messages to the workers.
The ambassador has also held two separate meetings with Foreign Ministry secretary general Datuk Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak and Home Ministry secretary general Datuk Seri Aseh Che Mat to help ease tension arising from riots by Indonesian workers.
Asked on the Indonesian government's view of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad's warning that Indonesian workers would be the last choice for employment, Hadi said it was the right of the Malaysian government.
"I cannot interfere in this but there are other diplomatic channels where the issue could be further discussed," he said, citing the Malaysia-Indonesia joint commission meeting as one of the most appropriate avenues for deliberation.
The joint commission meeting, to be attended by the Foreign ministers from both nations, is expected to be held here in mid-February.