Yudhoyono, Abdullah play down differences on illegals' issue

Updated On: Feb 15, 2005

Kuala Lumpur– Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s first state visit toMalaysiaon Feb 14 came at a time when ties had been strained by the unresolved issue of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians working illegally inMalaysia.

However, at a press conference following his talkswith Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, both men appeared determined not to let the issue cast a cloud over the two-day visit.

Mr Abdullah saidKuala Lumpurwould end its amnesty for illegal Indonesian workers this month and start arresting and deporting them from March 1. The amnesty had earlier been extended at Mr Yudhoyono’s request.

The Indonesian leader, who had been under pressure at home to urgeMalaysiato adopt a more lenient stand towards the illegals, said: “We want to resolve any problem we have in good spirits, especially of Indonesians working illegally inMalaysia.”

On the issue of Malaysian employers refusing to pay wages of Indonesian illegal immigrants, Mr Abdullah said that although the matter did not involve the government, it was prepared to help out.

He said the government would advise employers to settle the wages of their foreign employees. “This is a responsibility they must honour,” said Mr Abdullah.

Mr Yudhoyono saidIndonesiawould leave it entirely to the Malaysian government to tackle the problem.

On Feb 7, his Manpower Minister Fahmi Idris had riledMalaysiaby saying thatJakartaplanned to sue Malaysian firms that took advantage ofKuala Lumpur’s on-going amnesty for illegal immigrants to cheat Indonesian workers of their pay.

Some Malaysians felt the remarks were uncalled for since their government had gone out of its way to accommodateJakartaover the illegal workers’issue.

Apart from the illegal immigrants’ problem, the two leaders also discussed the reconstruction of tsunami-shattered Aceh and ways to enhance the economic cooperation between the two neighbours.

* M'sia To Use Biometric System To Tackle Illegals' Problem, Says PM (Bernama, Feb 14)

* President Susilo's Visit To Malaysia Holds Great Significance (Bernama, Feb 11)