Malaysia Says Indonesian Outcry on Maids Due to Elections

KUALA LUMPUR ~ Malaysia said this week that Indonesia’s “emotional” decision to ban its nationals from coming here to work as domestic helpers was linked to the upcoming presidential elections.

Angry over the latest case of maid abuse, Indonesia said last week it would stop sending domestic helpers to Malaysia at least until a mid-July meeting in Kuala Lumpur to discuss a new migrant worker agreement.

Malaysian Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam said the abuse cases had become an issue in Indonesia due to the upcoming July 8 presidential elections, which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is tipped to win.

“They are facing an election, so some issues like this become very emotional at this time. After the elections, things might change,” Subramaniam said.

“But if this ban continues, we will have to look at other markets,” he said, adding that the government was recruiting maids from other countries, including Muslims from the southern Philippines.

A group representing maid agencies has reportedly said that between 50,000 and 60,000 Filipino Muslim maids could be hired to fill the void following Indonesia’s temporary ban.

“We welcome the Muslim Filipino maids,” Subramaniam said.

“Filipino maids can come here according to the terms and conditions which their country has already signed with us, so whether it is Muslim or Christian, they can be hired to fill any gaps.”

Indonesia’s ban came after a 43-year-old Malaysian woman was charged earlier this month with causing grievous bodily harm against her Indonesian maid. She allegedly beat her repeatedly with a cane and scalded her with boiling water.

A Malaysian former flight attendant was also sentenced in November to 18 years in jail for using an iron and scalding water to inflict horrific wounds on her maid.

Malaysia has no laws governing working conditions for domestic workers but has promised to draft legislation to protect them from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor conditions.

Malaysian officials said an average of 50 maid abuse cases were reported each year out of 300,000 Indonesian maids working here, but the Indonesian embassy here said 1,000 maids experience violence and mistreatment annually.

About 1.2 million documented Indonesians are in Malaysia, with illegals estimated to number about 800,000.

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