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Slavery abroad!

Image of toy manacles
(Pic by scoll22 /
THERE has been considerable debate surrounding Malaysia’s proposed one-off-day gift to foreign domestic workers. There’s some strange synchronicity involved, it seems: the welfare of foreign labour is not only a hot topic here, but in neighbouring countries, as well.

I received this (somewhat irate) statement in my mailbox yesterday. It was from the fine citizens of anti-immigration and community safety non-governmental organisation Malaysia Untuk Malaysia (MUM), and responds towards recent reports of deplorable work conditions among Malaysian professionals working in Jakarta.

Press Statement
29 June 2009

Modern-day slavery in Indonesia

It is with grave concern that Malaysians view the case of brand consultant Mr Gerald Lim, whose cruel living conditions while employed in Indonesia were revealed in a feature by The Light in its 27 June edition.

This sad case is once again proof that skilled and talented Malaysian nationals are not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Malaysia Untuk Malaysia (MUM) feels that the attitudes of our Asean neighbours, Indonesia in particular, are sorely lacking in ensuring the welfare of Malaysian citizens working within their borders.

Mr Lim’s grouses are chiefly:

Long work hours: “I typically get to work at seven in the morning and only leave the office at nine.”

                  Blackberries (Source:
 No off days: “My Blackberry is never off, even on the weekends, because you always need to keep up-to-date in this line.”

Lack of privacy: “My supervisor has this irritating habit of calling me – after he sends me any email – and reading his e-mails out to me.”

Forced duties beyond job specifications: “Some Saturday mornings I have to golf with this or that industry big-wig – and sometimes they are so tedious! I can’t even have a weekend in peace.”

Additionally, Mr Lim’s confinement to his serviced apartment “for security reasons” is tantamount to a violation of human rights. These problems can all be addressed with appropriate legislation. However, the attitude of the Indonesian government has been callous, at best.

That’s a big wig (Source:
In a report by the Indonesia Post on 26 June, Indonesian Labour Minister Irman Pasaribu was quoted as saying that he was opposed to any legislation that would give foreign nationals working in Indonesia days off.

Irman revealed that there are 100,000 Malaysian executives currently working in Indonesia. According to the minister, a day off would have detrimental effects on locations such as tourist spots, upscale shopping malls and gourmet restaurants.

“If you go to downtown Jakarta on Sunday, you would think that you’re in KL. This is because Malaysian corporate employees like to visit the city to shop, making the place not only very congested but also very un-Indonesian in its crowd,” Irman said.

“While we have to safeguard the interest of the employees, we should not forget that the interest of the employers should also be protected. Employers will have horror stories to tell you about their expatriate executives,” Irman added.

The Indonesia Post report also quoted International Traders chief executive officer Adikrishna Sulong as saying: “I take my employees on company holidays and to night clubs. But I will discourage the proposal of a mandatory day off for them. Where will they go on their own?”

Another figure in the Indonesian cabinet, Foreign Minister Satria Suparno, questioned the ability of Malaysian nationals to behave, if given days off.

Money-laundering (Pic by paulgeor
/ Dreamstime)
“They will fall in love with our local girls and boys, and not want to leave. Or mix with a bad crowd and start getting involved with crimes like money-laundering or electronic theft,” Satria said.

MUM condemns the Indonesian government for not only its disregard for basic labour rights, but also blatant xenophobia. This sort of prejudicial attitude towards our [citizens], as if they were cattle to be corralled, is an insult to all Malaysians. We call on Indonesia to issue an official apology to Malaysia, for its unconscionable treatment of Malaysian citizens.

MUM also supports the recent suggestion by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Hamid to temporarily suspend the flow of Malaysian professionals seeking work in Indonesian urban centres.

While the government has said that it would embark on this course of action only after consultation with the Indonesian embassy, MUM urges the government to act decisively. The safety and well-being of Malaysians must be paramount!

Do we want our fellow [citizens], qualified and well-regarded professionals, to be treated in the same low level as the unskilled foreigners that come into Malaysia?

Donald Lum
Malaysia Untuk Malaysia

Zedeck Siew does not have a Blackberry — yet.

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2 Responses to “Slavery abroad!”

  1. Nicholas.C says:

    You ALMOST had me there..

  2. Nicholas Aw says:

    This is the problem with our neigbour, Indonesia who wants to keep the cake and eat it at the same time. But then again this is not only an isolated case. Malaysia and even Singapore practise such a policy and perhaps there are many other countries, too with the excuse of “protecting our citizens”.

    In Malaysia, for example we have policies based on race such as a certain race only are given the privilege of buying National Unit Trust funds and in Singapore, there are foreign companies which retrench both Singapore and Malaysian personnel on the pretext of the global economic recession and to fill in these vacated posts with expatriates.

    The satirical novels of George Orwell speak volumes of the current happenings in this part of the world.

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