|Malaysian legal process 'unfair to maids'|
World News - Thursday, August 30, 2007
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
It's almost four years since Nirmala Bonat escaped from her Malaysian employer, who beat and burned her on a regular basis.
Since then, Nirmala, 23, originally from West Nusa Tenggara, has waited patiently for justice to take its course. But now she says she has almost lost hope.
An official at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where Nirmala has lived since 2004, told The Jakarta Post by phone on Wednesday that the former maid had almost given up.
"It seems that the process has been deliberately slowed down by trial delays and the replacement of judges," Tatang B. Razak said.
"In fact, her employer has been released by the police. We face many similar cases here."
He said that the embassy had filed many complaints with the Malaysian authorities after looking after thousands of Indonesian maids fleeing their employers because of abuse or unpaid salaries.
He said no Malaysian citizen had ever been punished for abusing an Indonesian maid.
"Nirmala's abuse is the only case that reached court. Other cases are still in the hands of the police. This shows how slow the process is if it relates to abuse of Indonesians. But if an Indonesian is alleged with a violation or a crime, the legal process takes only days to arrive at the court," Tatang said.
He said that the case of how Indonesian maid Rini Setyowati was brought to trial without the Indonesian Embassy being notified just a week after she was accused of stealing her employer's jewelry illustrated the unfairness.
Tatang said that he could not provide data on how many Indonesian maids had died of abuse, but Migrant Care founder Wahyu Susilo said that in 2007 alone, some 46 Indonesian maids died in Malaysia without clear explanation of their cause of death from police.
The latest case is the unclear death of a 23-year-old maid from Ngawi, Central Java, identified as Sumarmi, who was found dead in her room last Saturday.
Just a week before, another maid, identified as Kunarsih from Demak, Central Java, was found dead in her room after suffering blunt force injuries to the chest and abdomen.
Foreign Ministry director for the protection of Indonesian citizens abroad Teguh Wardoyo said that weak law enforcement on the part of Malaysia had partly caused similar abuse cases to recur as it would not create deterrents to prevent similar abuses against Indonesian citizens in the future.
"We ask Malaysia to take the cases very seriously, and demand they punish all perpetrators in abuse and murder cases," he told reporters after filing Indonesia's complaints with Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Dato' Zainal Abidin Zain on Wednesday.
Teguh urged Indonesian agencies to coordinate among themselves and their monitoring activities to make sure that all migrant workers sent to foreign countries went through the correct legal channels and had the required skills.
Zainal Abidin, meanwhile, asked Indonesia to give Malaysia a chance to prove its seriousness in handling all the cases reported to them, including the assault of Indonesia's chief karate referee, Donald Peter Luther Kolopita.
"Give us a chance. We can't guarantee that similar incidents will not take place anymore as we are dealing with human beings. But we don't have a policy to beat people. We have taken action on the four police officials, such as reducing half of their salary and suspending them. We will take further action after completion of investigation," he said.
Also on Wednesday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia's Ambassador Abdulrahman Mohammed Amen Alkhayyat to explain why Indonesia had not been granted consular access to two injured citizens allegedly abused by their Arab employers and why the repatriation of the bodies of two other Indonesian maids had been so slow.