Abuse Claim Clouds Indonesia-Malaysia Maid Deal


A report that a Malaysian official abused two Indonesian maids has thrown a potential spanner into Jakarta’s plan to resume sending maids to its neighbour following a ban imposed over abuse.

Some 300,000 Indonesian women formerly worked in Malaysian households until Jakarta imposed a ban in June 2009 after a spate of severe abuse cases, leading to a shortage of maids that has hit working Malaysian parents.

The ban was lifted in December after both countries agreed on a salary increase and measures aimed at curbing abuse.

However, Malaysian state-controlled media quoted an Indonesian embassy official as saying on Sunday that it had received a report on the alleged abuse case and had advised Jakarta to resume the ban.

“We received reports that two maids were physically abused by a senior government official and his wife,” the official, Suryana Sastradiredja, was quoted saying by the New Straits Times.

He added that the maids, who had been recruited during the ban, had also not been paid. One of the maids sought shelter at the embassy on Friday, he said.

Suryana and other Indonesian embassy officials could not be reached for comment.

Reyna Usman, the Indonesian labour ministry’s director-general for workers abroad, said in Jakarta that the Indonesian side was investigating and declined detailed comment on the case.

However, she added: “If the two maids went to Malaysia during the moratorium, that means they were breaking the law at their own risk.”

A Malaysian government official said on Tuesday that Indonesian embassy representatives met with those from Malaysia’s foreign ministry on Monday to discuss the issue, but that no official protest had yet been lodged.

Malaysian Deputy Human Resources Minister Maznah Mazlan was quoted on Tuesday by The Star newspaper as insisting that Indonesian maids would resume arriving next month once they complete training.

The two countries have agreed to nearly double salaries to 700 ringgit (US$230) per month, forbid employers from confiscating maid passports, allow maids one day off per week, and ensure their right to communicate with relatives and Indonesian authorities.

Malaysian courts have sentenced several employers to jail in recent years in cases in which maids have been assaulted with a hammer, scissors, scalding water and a hot iron.

Cambodia also imposed a ban on sending domestic workers to Malaysia in October following numerous abuse complaints.

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