By Lisa J. Ariffin
KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Indonesian human rights activists alleged that Malaysia is the “most unsafe” destination for their migrant workers and urged Jakarta to freeze all diplomatic ties with Malaysia until the issue is rectified.
The Jakarta Post reported today that the activists asked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take tough action against the Malaysian government, which they hold responsible for alleged violence against Indonesian migrant workers, until Putrajaya improves protection for the group.
“Among the destination countries for migrant workers, Malaysia is the most unsafe for Indonesian workers as between 600 and 700 Indonesians die of various causes, including torture, shooting and exploitative acts by their employers,” Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.
She added that Yudhoyono did not have to consider the “brotherhood” between the two countries and urged the premier to be tough instead.
Thaufiek Zulbahary of Solidaritas Perempuan, an NGO providing legal advocacy for female migrant workers, said the Indonesian government should also delay sending workers to Malaysia until the government takes steps to protect them.
The activists also accused Putrajaya of intimidating Malaysian human rights activist Irene Fernandez, the executive director of Tenaganita, “who has long stood up for migrant workers”.
The Jakarta Post had on Monday reported Fernandez as saying, among others, Malaysia was not safe for Indonesian workers because it did not have a legal framework or specific laws to protect migrant workers.
She was also reported to have said that it was not in the police’s power to shoot dead three Indonesian nationals, who had been suspected of burglary and robbery, in an incident in Port Dickson recently.
Fernandez has since come under heavy fire locally for her criticism, which detractors say has painted Malaysia in a negative light, was unpatriotic and be detrimental to Malaysia’s bilateral relations with Indonesia.
Yesterday, Fernandez announced that she has been hauled up by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for an “interview” tomorrow over statements attributed to her that alleged corruption by police and the court system here.
She has since disputed the remarks and said The Jakarta Post will print a correction to the article.
But while Fernandez said she would willingly offer her statements to the graftbusting agency, she stressed that she would not back down from her stand that Malaysia continues to be a “completely” unsafe environment for Indonesian workers.
The activist, who was once jailed for exposing the allegedly poor conditions at local immigration centres, also refused to apologise for her statements, demanding instead that the government and her critics apologise to her.
She will meet with MACC officials at its Putrajaya headquarters at 10am on Friday.
Indonesia recently lifted the moratorium on the supply of domestic workers to Malaysia, but Indonesian Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar has repeatedly said Jakarta would not send workers until Putrajaya could ensure their protection.