Kuala Lumpur–Indonesia’s plans to sue Malaysian employers who have allegedly cheated their Indonesian workers have cast a cloud over President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s first official visit toMalaysianext week.
On Feb 7, Indonesian Manpower Minister Fahmi Idris said his government planned to sue Malaysian firms that took advantage ofKuala Lumpur’s on-going amnesty for illegal immigrants to cheat Indonesian workers of their pay.
Mr Fahmi had also criticised Malaysian immigration laws which, he said, were not enforced fairly, with little action taken against bosses.
“We ask that equal penalty be meted out to illegal immigrants and the Malaysian companies which recruit them,” he was quoted as saying, referring to provisions for jail sentences and whipping of illegals.
Jakartahas engaged 10 Malaysian lawyers to prepare the lawsuits against the companies concerned as well as others who illegally hire Indonesian workers.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Indonesian move could lead to certain repercussions.
“Let them (Indonesia) take whatever action they wish. But there is another problem because it involves the status of workers who came here illegally.That is also an offence,” he told reporters on Feb 8.
The Indonesian planned legal action has riled the Malaysians, who believe thatKuala Lumpurhas gone out of its way to accommodateJakartaover the illegal workers’ issue.
A commentary in the Malaysian newspaper, The Star, noted thatMalaysiahad thrice postponed the repatriation of illegal workers at President Yudhoyono’spersonal request.
The writer called the planned litigation as “over-reaction”. “Why the harsh words? Is this the Asian way – to bite the hand of friendship?” she asked.
* There’s no need to bite the hand of friendship (The Star, Feb 9)
* Jakarta cautioned on repercussions over legal action (The Star, Feb 9)