TheAge: Malaysia deports Indonesian workers
By Mark Baker
28/1/2002 12:35 pm Mon
Malaysia deports Indonesian workers
By MARK BAKER
Monday 28 January 2002
Malaysia has banned labour imports from Indonesia and begun
expelling tens of thousands of migrant workers in a crackdown that
is straining relations between the countries.
Indonesian Vice-President Hamzah Haz appealed against the
decision at the weekend as Malaysian authorities prepared to
deport 30,000 Indonesian labourers from the eastern state of Sabah
and another 10,000 from neighbouring Sarawak on Borneo.
But Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad rejected suggestions that he
would meet President Megawati Sukarnoputri to discuss the issue.
He said Malaysia had a surplus of foreign workers and would take
no more from Indonesia.
"We have stopped this and there are no more jobs here for them,"
Dr Mahathir said.
The crackdown was triggered by a riot 10 days ago at a factory in
the western state of Negri Sembilan during which 147 Indonesian
workers were arrested after attacking police - who were ostensibly
checking for drugs - and damaging buildings and vehicles.
Fifteen Indonesian workers alleged to have taken part in the riot will
be charged in court tomorrow, newspapers reported yesterday.
Malaysian workers' rights group Tenaganita, which has investigated
the incident, said the riot had been provoked by police, who lined
up workers and began slapping them while conducting urine tests.
"The workers reacted and police began to use force and continued
to beat up the workers," said Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez.
"That was the last straw, the seam burst and the rioting began."
"The workers reacted and police began to use force and continued to beat up the workers," said Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez. "That was the last straw, the seam burst and the rioting began."
Dr Mahathir rejected the accusation - supported by the Indonesian
labour rights group Kopbumi - that police had provoked the
"Please prove their claims," he said. "If we compare our so-called
police brutality and theirs, I think theirs fare much worse.
"Looking at and comparing pictures of police brutality there, they
seem to show that it is more brutal over there."
Indonesian Manpower Minister Jacob Nuwa Wea last week
admitted that Indonesia was embarrassed by the incident in Negri
Sembilan - which followed a riot by 1600 Indonesians at a Johor
detention camp in December - while announcing plans to send a
legal team to defend those arrested.
Another 38 of those arrested in Negri Sembilan were deported to
Indonesia on Saturday.
This takes to 129 the number expelled since the incident.
Dr Mahathir blamed "trouble makers" among the migrant workers for
creating misunderstanding between Malaysia and Indonesia and
insisted bilateral relations would not be damaged by the issue. "It is
their own action that creates in the Malaysian Government and
people an aversion towards Indonesian immigrants," he said.
"They are the ones souring the ties, not us. When a riot is carried
out by one group, followed by another and another, I think we can
no longer stay silent. On numerous occasions we have accorded
them preferential treatment. Now we no longer want to keep them."
Most of the estimated one million Indonesians working in Malaysia
are believed to be illegal migrants, many smuggled by syndicates
supplying companies with cheap labour.
Ms Fernandez said a huge people-smuggling trade was being supported by corrupt Malaysian police and immigration officials.