Indonesia seeks Malaysian promise to protect migrant workers

Migrant Care has urged both leaders to make migrant workers’ protection a priority in their discussions. AFP
Updated 29 June 2018
0

Indonesia seeks Malaysian promise to protect migrant workers

  • There are about 2.7 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia working as domestic helpers, and plantation and construction workers
  • Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the world’s biggest producers of palm oil, accounting for roughly 90 percent of global oil palm production

JAKARTA: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has pledged to protect millions of Indonesians living and working in the country, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said after talks between the two leaders.
“I have asked about protection to migrant workers in Malaysia as well as the establishment of schools for Indonesian children there,” Widodo said during a joint press conference with Mahathir at the Bogor Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Friday.
There are about 2.7 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia working as domestic helpers, and plantation and construction workers — the largest concentration of the Indonesian diaspora abroad. Almost half work there illegally, according to data from the government.
Mahathir acknowledged that there are Indonesians in Malaysia who entered the country illegally, many with children. “These children need to go to schools. We already have Indonesian schools in the peninsula, but we still don’t have any in Sabah and Sarawak. We will see to it,” Mahathir said.
However, neither of the leaders said anything about the stalled negotiation of a bilateral memorandum of understanding on protection and placement of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, which expired in 2016.
Migrant workers advocacy group Migrant Care has urged both leaders to make migrant workers’ protection a priority in their bilateral discussions. “Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia are still prone to various abuse, such as physical, fall victim to trafficking, and some of them are on death row,” Migrant Care’s executive director, Wahyu Susilo, told Arab News.
Susilo also said the two leaders should finalize negotiations on the MoU and refer it to the principles on the ASEAN Consensus on Protection and Promotion the Rights of Migrant Workers and other international human rights instruments to protect migrant workers.
Mahathir called on Indonesia to band together to counter accusation from the EU, which aims to phase out the use of biodiesel made from palm oil by 2030, that the two countries’ palm oil plantations have caused massive deforestation and ignited climate change.
“This is not correct,” he said, adding that both Malaysia and Indonesia have the right to clear its land for wider cultivation grounds and benefit from them economically.
He said Europe was also once covered by forests, which have now been cut down.
“No one objected to it, we never objected to it. However, now when we need to have larger cultivation areas, they accuse us of destroying the environment and causing climate change,” Mahathir said.
He added that EU’s position was mainly based on economic grounds instead of environmental concerns.
Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the world’s biggest producers of palm oil, accounting for roughly 90 percent of global oil palm production.
The premier was on a two-day official visit in Indonesia, which ended Friday. It was his first visit to a Southeast Asian country since he became prime minister for the second time in May after defeating then-prime minister Najib Razak. It is customary for newly installed leaders of ASEAN countries to make their first official visits to fellow member states of the regional bloc.
“We wanted to make Indonesia as our first trip abroad because Indonesia is our closest neighbor,” Mahathir said, taking into account the family ties between people in both countries.
“We are not strangers to each other and many Malaysians are originated from Indonesia,” he added.
Mahathir and his wife Siti Hasmah arrived in Jakarta on Thursday night. Widodo and First Lady Iriana Widodo greeted the pair on the tarmac at Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport. The last time Widodo greeted a visiting foreign dignitary at the tarmac was when he welcomed King Salman of Saudi Arabia when the latter visited Indonesia in early 2017.


US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

Updated 20 January 2019
0

US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

  • US and Pakistan should have “strategic engagement”, not transactional relationship
  • The American senator sees a “unique opportunity” to change diplomatic direction of US-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD:  US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The comments, which add to growing signs of improved relations between Islamabad and Washington, come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today".

"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by "strategic engagement", including a free trade agreement, he said.

US relations with Pakistan have long been dogged by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the Taliban towards a peace deal.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham's trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the US side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

The uncertainty has been increased by reports that Trump is prepared to order more than 5,000 US troops out of Afghanistan, a move that would represent a sharp change in course from Washington's previous policy of stepping up military action against the Taliban.

With Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a year and struggling to hold back the Taliban insurgency, the reports have caused alarm in Kabul, prompting many close to the government to question the US commitment to Afghanistan.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the US message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump's plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said "without a doubt" but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

"The world's not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable," he told Reuters. "Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly."