Indonesia's ambassador to Malaysia, Hermono, has claimed that domestic workers from his country face "modern-day slavery" and "forced labour".
Indonesian ambassador: Domestic workers subjected to various kinds of abuse in Malaysia
In an interview with Malaysian media Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Hermono said that maids were more likely to face abuse as they worked alone and lived in the houses of their employers.
He also listed out various abuses that Indonesian domestic workers had been subjected to in Malaysia, including:
- Multiple cases of domestic workers working for their employers with no pay, sometimes for more than a decade,
- Having their identification papers confiscated by their employers,
- Long working hours, with no off days, and
- Physical abuse.
The ambassador added that in 2021, the embassy provided help for a total of 206 cases, with over RM2 million (S$642,200) paid off by the employers.
There are also more than 40 cases currently before the courts.
As for 2022, the embassy has already assisted 16 cases thus far, and facilitated the return of over RM300,000 (S$96,337) in unpaid wages.
He added, "We have domestic workers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but we don’t have serious problems like here (in Malaysia). So why do we have these problems here?"
Cases handled by embassy are fraction of real number
Hermono also claimed that the number of cases handled by the Indonesian embassy were a fraction of the actual number of incidents.
According to the ambassador, many Indonesian domestic workers either could not flee from their employers or faced challenges in raising their case to the embassy's attention.
FMT further quoted him as saying, "They’re warned that if they run away, the police will catch them and the immigration will send them to their depot. These kinds of threats are pure elements of forced labour."
Hopeful that upcoming signing of memorandum will address the issue
The ambassador acknowledged Malaysia's government for coming up with a national plan on forced labour however, noting that that it showed a recognition of the issue.
The ambassador also expressed his hope that the upcoming signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Malaysia and Indonesia will provide better protections for domestic workers.
Hermono elaborated that the MoU will include a "one-channel system", under the control of Indonesia, which will allow it to keep track of the whereabouts of domestic workers and maintain communication with them.
Called in by Malaysia's Foreign Ministry to clarify comments
According to The Star, Indonesia has stopped the flow of domestic workers to Malaysia, with its resumption contingent on the signing of an MoU regarding the recruitment and placement of such workers.
Bernama further reported that following the interview, Hermono was summoned by Malaysia's Foreign Ministry to clarify his remarks, specifically those pertaining to the MoU.
In a statement released on Feb. 21, the foreign ministry said that any issues which have been raised will be channelled to the respective ministries or agencies.
The ministry said, "Such an act is important to avoid any misunderstanding and confusion among the public."
In addition, following the meeting, an "understanding" has been reached between the two parties, to continue with a "positive and constructive" approach in addressing the issue of domestic workers' recruitment and their protection, the ministry added.
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Top collage left screenshot via FMT YouTube, right image by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels