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

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.


Pentagon chief says keeping some troops in north Syria under discussion

Updated 3 min 30 sec ago

Pentagon chief says keeping some troops in north Syria under discussion

  • Esper said that while the withdrawal from northeastern Syria was under way, some troops were still with partner forces near oilfields
KABUL: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that keeping some US troops in parts of northeastern Syria near oilfields with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ensure that the oil did not fall into the hand of Daesh or others was one of the options that was being discussed.

Speaking with reports during a trip to Afghanistan, Esper said that, while the withdrawal from northeastern Syria was under way, some troops were still with partner forces near oilfields and there had been discussions about keeping some of them there.

Esper said he had not presented that option yet, but the Pentagon’s job was to look at different options.