State, NGO Offer Opposing Claims About Maid’s Rape in Malaysia

The Jakarta Globe

Camelia Pasandaran, Elisabeth Oktofani & Antara

The state body in charge of migrant workers’ welfare denied allegations that an Indonesian maid had been raped by a Malaysian government minister three years ago, but an NGO said otherwise.

Jumhur Hidayat, chairman of the National Board for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers (BNP2TKI), said on Friday that the maid, identified as Rubingah, had denied being raped.

“There has been a direct written explanation from Rubingah that she was never raped while working in Malaysia,” Jumhur was quoted by Antara as saying.

The rape allegation emerged earlier this month in Malaysian media, based on a WikiLeaks document of an investigation by Migrant Care, an Indonesian nongovernmental organization.

The alleged perpetrator, Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s minister of communication and culture, has vehemently denied the claims.

But Anis Hidayah, Migrant Care’s director, said Rubingah had claimed at the time that she had been raped.

“She told us in 2007 that she was raped,” Anis said.

“We never meant to publicize the investigation, but after it was reported by WikiLeaks, we’ve had to open it.”

“We’re not in a position to say whether the allegations are true or not, and I don’t wish to go against the BNP2TKI’s statement,” she added.

Migrant Care, she said, had already submitted a copy of its 2007 investigation report to the National Police and the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

She urged the state to speed up the implementation of a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia on increased protection for Indonesian migrant workers.

The two countries have been deadlocked over the issues of minimum wages for migrant workers and who must shoulder workers’ placement fees.

Wahyu Susilo, a migrant worker policy analyst, said the memorandum’s provisions should comply with International Labor Organization standards to prevent the exploitation of Indonesian workers in Malaysia.

“Currently, employers don’t allow their workers to retain their own passports or to have a weekly day off,” he said.

Many Indonesian workers, he added, are also barred from associating with fellow workers or contacting their embassy.

But Anis said it would be hard to get the two governments to adopt ILO standards since neither country had laws enshrining these protections.

“If both countries had laws guaranteeing workers’ rights as per ILO standards, then they could implement the [memorandum] sooner,” she said.

Both countries, she added, had also failed to ratify the pertinent ILO conventions.

Neither Indonesia nor Malaysia has ratified Convention 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining. Indonesia has not ratified Conventions 138 and 182 on abolishing child labor.

Malaysia did ratify Convention 105 on eliminating forced and compulsory labor in 1958, only to reverse its decision in 1990.

Anis said it was crucial to have the memorandum in place to end worker abuse as well as to prevent Indonesian workers from going to Malaysia illegally to find work, in defiance of a moratorium imposed by Jakarta in the wake of abuses.

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