Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jakarta cautioned on repercussions over legal action

Excerpt

BY SA’ODAH ELIAS AND MERGAWATI ZULFAKAR

PUTRAJAYA: The Indonesian government must be mindful of other problems that may arise if it goes ahead and sues Malaysian companies that have allegedly cheated its citizens, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi cautioned.

The Prime Minister said Indonesia could do as it wished but, there could be 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 after briefing officers and staff of government agencies handling Islamic affairs on the concept of Islam Hadhari at his office here yesterday.

Abdullah said he would try to get further clarification from the Indonesian government on the matter and would also discuss the issue with his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers.

Abdullah is due to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is arriving for a visit here next week.

On Monday, Indonesian Manpower Minister Fahmi Idris said his government planned to sue Malaysian firms that took advantage of the on-going amnesty for illegal immigrants to cheat Indonesian workers of their pay.

ON A MISSION: Fahmi leaving after the press conference in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday. He said Jakarta had engaged 10 lawyers to prepare the lawsuits against companies as well as those who illegally hired Indonesian workers.
Fahmi had also criticised Malaysian immigration laws which, he said, were not enforced fairly with little action taken against bosses.

Jakarta has engaged 10 Malaysian lawyers to prepare the lawsuits against the companies concerned as well as others who illegally hire Indonesian workers.

Asked whether this would be among issues he would he would discuss with the Indonesian President, Abdullah said he was “not certain if the issue would still be relevant then.”

“It’s possible that this matter could be resolved before he arrives.”

Asked to comment on government actions that were seen as inconsistent, Abdullah said the amnesty had to be extended a few times to accommodate the Indonesian government’s request.

The Government, he said, was sympathetic towards the problems faced by Indonesia in the aftermath of the Dec 26 tsunami disaster and was willing to help in whatever way it could.

“We changed the dates, we delayed the action, and so on, because there was a request from the Indonesian President himself. This is all at our discretion,” he said.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid, who met Fahmi yesterday, said Malaysia stressed that workers from Indonesia must enter the country legally.

“To enable these workers to take legal action, they should return home and then come back legally. Then they can proceed with legal action.

“If they are still illegal, it will be difficult for them to take action,” he said. “We go by the law. If the law allows for action by the workers, then we should allow it because the law governs us.

“In the end, we look at justice. We cannot deny justice to anybody,” he added.

Fahmi said Indonesia respected the laws in Malaysia, adding that his government had raised this issue at the highest level.

“It is fair if illegal workers are punished by the law but employers should also be punished and even the Prime Minister (Abdullah) has said it is fair.”

Fahmi said Indonesia wanted to see errant employers punished.

He added that from the cases brought to court, employers were only fined.

He said if any of the employers were found guilty and caned, it would deter them from harbouring illegal workers.

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