ID :
Mon, 09/08/2008 - 09:43
Auther :


By Eliswan Azly
Jakarta, Sept 8 (ANTARA) - The promise voiced by Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to improve relations with Indonesia if he is in power by putting the problem of illegal Indonesian migrant workers on his agenda of reforms gives a new hope to this world largest archipelagic country.

Why not, because illegal Indonesian migrant workers who are poorly paid and protected have actually helped make a great contribution to Malaysia'development especially in the sector of construction and plantations. But still inhuman treatment is still haunting them merely because they entered Malaysia illegally (without papers).

In fact, the Malaysian Employers' Federation as reported by Asia Times admitted that about half of the construction industry's labor force was made up of illegal workers. Building firms also feared that a failure to meet contractual obligations, because of a diminished labor force, could spell financial disaster for them in court proceedingss.

It is this respect, Said Nizar. SH.LLM, an expert on international law at the Hassanuddin University in a phone call on Sunday, said Anwar's statement on his agenda to put priority on solving illegal Indonesian migrant workers' problems, which in the past had posed an stumbling obstacle in the two countries' bilateral relations because ill treatment of migrant workers especially domestic helpers, was deemed a fresh wind by Indonesia.

Earlier on Saturday, Anwar Ibrahim after a cordial get-together with Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Union (ICMI) figures told the press one of his main agendas was to improve relations with neighboring countries including Indonesia and addressing the illegal Indonesian workers problem is necessary.

Anwar also promised that he would abolish the caning punishment in Malaysia, saying it was an inhuman way of punishing wrongdoers.

Relations with Indonesia, including with the country's Muslim organizations, were important.

He also expressed thanks to the foreign media, including Indonesian media, for the support they had given him at a time when Malaysian media had put him in a tight spot.

Anwar said if someday he came to power in Malaysia, he would also revoke discriminatory policies which had put Muslim Malays in a controversial position.

Another thing he would dismantle was the New Economic Policy (NEP) launched in the early 1970s, and replace it with a system that would empower all poor Malaysians regardless of whether they belonged to the Malay majority or the ethnic Chinese or Indian minorities.

Nizar saw that Malaysia needed a voice for change to improve a number of degenerated systems and to eliminate ethnic tensions after learning Anwar's explanation to the press.

According to Nizar, Anwar was a reformist in Malaysia who saw such injustice in many Malaysian policies on migrant workers and economy on account of discrimitory contents.

In Indonesia, where most of Malaysia's illegal immigrants come from, there is little sympathy for worried Malaysian businessmen, who are seen to have exploited cheap labor from poor neighboring countries to build the country's monuments to economic success.

"To a certain extent, the Malaysian government should thank the illegal workers. They have had a hand in developing Malaysian businesses. Malaysian businessmen also take advantage of this situation because they don't have to pay tax," Nizar said.

Another expert on International law, Dr Sofyan Siregar, also saw Anwar's statement as a good momentum toward better relations in the employment of foreign labour in that neighboring country, thus lowering labor torture and ill-treatment-related frictions and tension in the future.

In the flare-up in the two countries' relations last year, thousands of young Indonesians burned Malaysian flags and demonstrated in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta and consulates elsewhere after the physical assault of an Indonesian karate coach by Malaysian police.

The fact that the police were hunting for illegal Indonesian immigrants at the time has also inflamed tensions in Indonesia.

Donald Luther Kolobita, 47, was part of the Indonesian team competing in the Asian Karate Championships in Kuala Lumpur on August 24, 2007 when he was confronted by four plainclothes police officers late at night outside his hotel. Thinking they were trying to rob him, Kolobita put up a fight before he was overpowered, handcuffed and taken to the police station, where he was savagely assaulted.

Kolobita returned to Jakarta in a wheelchair and the Indonesian team withdrew from the championship. The Speaker of Indonesia's parliament, Agung Laksono, called the attack "an arrogant act on the part of the Malaysian police against an Indonesian citizen".

According to Sofyan, this episode represented the latest in a series of complaints about the ill-treatment of Indonesians in Malaysia, especially among migrant workers. There are almost 600,000 officially documented Indonesian workers in Malaysia based on unofficial estimates.

"During the boom years of the 1990s, low-wage laborers from abroad helped Malaysia achieve remarkable rates of economic growth, but migrant laborers are now being looked down upon - and this is creating bitterness between the two Southeast Asian neighbors," he said.

"If Malaysia does not cooperate, Indonesia can send more illegal workers, or will take them all out of the country, both legal and illegal ones," Sofyan said in a phone call.

However, the rampant abuse of migrant workers in Malaysia -- most of whom are Indonesians -- was directly related to the two countries' lack of laws protecting workers.

Earlier, Yunus Yamani, chairman of Wali Amanah, a private social security agency for Indonesian migrant workers, said relevant authorities were lacked coordination in preventing Indonesians from working abroad illegally.

Yunus urged Kuala Lumpur to take harsh measures against Malaysians who employed illegal workers to curb the number of labor abuse cases. "Malaysian employers recruit many illegal migrants to harvest palm oil on their plantations, then ask security personnel to deport them after harvest season."

Hence, Anwar's main agenda to solve the issue on illegal Indonesian migrant workers was regarded as a breakthrough toward building harmonious relations between the two countries which share share the same Malay cultural roots and Islamic faith.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister who was sacked and jailed a decade ago, has vowed to wrest power from the current government with the help of parliament members who have defected to his camp.

After an absence of 10 years from the Malayian parliament, Anwar was formally sworn in in August as a legislator again by Malaysian House Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia. Ibrahim was at the same time named leader of the opposition in the Malaysian parliament.