Migrant Workers Hurting Indonesia-Malaysia Ties?

Updated On: Apr 27, 2007

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Indonesia-Malaysia diplomatic relations.

President Yudhoyono is also set to make a trip to Malaysia in May to capitalise on the occasion to further strengthen the bilateral relationship. However, the issue of migrant workers has complicated the situation. The Indonesian government is coming under pressure from domestic groups to pressurise Malaysia to improve conditions for Indonesian migrant workers there.  

In a seminar “Protection of Indonesian Workers in Malaysia: After the Signing of MOU on Formal and Informal Sector” on Sunday (22 April 2007) organised by the Democrats Party, the Deputy Secretary General of the Democrats Party G Radityo Gambiro said, “I think it's necessary for Indonesia to stop sending domestic helpers to Malaysia until there is a legal protection of Indonesian workers in the neighboring country. It means that matters like wages, working hours, leave, prayers and fair legal settlement of disputes between employers and the domestic helpers should be clearly specified in their contract of work.”

Another speaker, Senior Commissioner (Ret) Nurfaizi contrasted the difference in the level of protection afforded by Hong KongTaiwan and Malaysia on Indonesian migrant workers. The Indonesian Deputy Ambassador to Malaysia A Mohammad Fachir pointed out that MOU between Indonesia and Malaysia does not include the rights and obligations of employers and sanctions in case of violation.

Several non-governmental organisations (NGO) and the Aceh People’s Party also called on the Indonesian government, but specifically the Aceh government to set up a team to investigate the cases of migrant workers receiving the death sentence in Malaysia. Speaking for the Legal Aid Institute, the Aceh Judicial Monitoring Institute and the NGO Coalition on Human Rights, Raihan Diani from the Aceh People’s Party, said, “We call on the government to be active in dealing with this case, such as by registering the number of Aceh residents who are under the threat of the death sentence in Malaysia and the legal process against them.” The Legal Institute estimated that there were 52 Acehnese migrant workers who could be facing the death sentence for bringing hashish, a form of cannabis to Malaysia.

The Indonesian Parliamentary delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly is also set to lobby the other parliamentarians of countries with Indonesian migrant workers to provide better protection for these workers. The Chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Committee at the House of Representaties, Abdillah Thoha highlighted Saudi Arabia and Malaysia as not yet providing ‘standard protection for migrant workers.’

Earlier, in February, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry had singled out the condition of migrant workers as having the ‘most potential to cause tension between the two countries [Malaysia and Indonesia]’. In a move likely to please the Indonesian government, the Malaysian government has recently tabled a bill that gives clout to law enforcers and protects victims of trafficking. However, that is unlikely to satisfy the increasingly vocal groups in Indonesia wanting more protection for their kinsmen working abroad.  (26 April 2007)


RI Lobbies for US Pullout from Iraq (Jakarta Post, 26 April 2007)

Govt Goes All Out to Beat Human Trafficking (New Straits Times, 25 April 2007)

Indonesia Needs to Boycott Sending of Domestic Helpers to M’sia (Antara, 22 April 2007)

Hopes for Yudhoyono to Discuss Improvement of Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Protection (Antara, 22 April 2007)

Government Told To Help Acehnese Jailed in Malaysia (Jakarta Post, 19 April 2007)

Migrant Workers Key Issue in RI-Malaysia Relations (Jakarta Post, 26 February 2007)