Jakarta continues to drag its feet over arrivals
WHEN Mar finally left after nine years with us, it felt like the end of a bond that had gone on too long. The lady was my maid. She was in her 40s and hailed from Madura island, off Java. She was a quick learner and she eventually surpassed all our expectations.
She proved to be indispensable, too. Our subsequent maids came and went. None came close to Mar in terms of dedication and commitment. The last one lasted for just one month.
Today, just like tens of thousands of other Malaysian households, I have been without an Indonesian maid, no thanks to the prolonged ban by Jakarta on Indonesian maids leaving for Malaysian shores.
Just as we thought the first batch of maids would return next month, given the long waiting list of prospective employers (yours truly included), we were told yesterday that the wait could be much longer.
In fact, the accord signed between Putrajaya and Jakarta to end the moratorium on Indonesian maids could be in jeopardy.
Indonesian diplomat Suryana Sastradiredja told the New Sunday Times that the Indonesian embassy in Malaysia would be advising the Indonesian government to suspend the sending of maids to Malaysia indefinitely despite the fact that maids had begun their compulsory training this month. His reason: there were fresh reports of maid abuse.
"We received reports that two maids were physically abused by a senior government official and his wife," Sastradiredja said, adding that the two victims were also not paid salaries.
"The official did not respect the agreement made between the two leaders of our nations."
He declined to name the government official. (The two maids were apparently recruited eight months ago during the moratorium period.)
The claims of abuse could not be immediately verified though, but the incident reflects how sensitive Indonesia is over the treatment of Indonesians working abroad, be it in Singapore or Saudi Arabia.
But it also raises a question of how committed Jakarta is in honouring the bilateral agreement with Putrajaya in respect to the hiring of Indonesian maids. Jakarta should not unilaterally delay the lifting of the ban on sending maids to Malaysia.
There had been frequent postponements of the arrival of maids, said Malaysian Maid Employers' Association president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein.
"Malaysian employers do not know what to believe any more. We hope the maids will be allowed to come next month," he said, adding that further delays would affect the wellbeing of households.
"Employers are desperate to get maids and would not mind paying more as long as the quality meets the price."
There are some 40,000 Malay-sian families on the waiting list for Indonesian maids. Such unilateral action by Jakarta to prolong their agony is totally unacceptable.
True, having a maid for an average Malaysian family is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. It is now part and parcel of Malaysian life. Indonesian maids are naturally the most sought after by Malaysian families.
However, the supply pipeline came to a virtual standstill from June 2009 amid allegations of maid abuse, charges that have strained normally amicable relations between the neighbouring states. Since then, anti-Malaysia rhetoric has reached new heights.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed in November last year that Indonesian maids could return to Malaysia once the two-year moratorium was lifted in December.
During the meeting, Susilo said that charges of abuse -- alleged beatings, overwork and withholding of pay -- should "be dealt with by the law speedily and fairly". Najib pledged that the government would not take the matter lightly.
Under the memorandum of understanding between Malaysia and Indonesia on the hiring of maids, it was agreed that Malaysian employers would pay RM4,511 to get a maid. From that amount, RM1,800 will be the Indonesian agent's fee.
The amount is an advance from the Indonesian recruitment agent to the maid and can be deducted from her salary, although each periodical deduction must not be more than half of the maid's monthly salary.
Despite the MoU and the agreement, Jakarta has chosen to hold back the Indonesian maids, using every plausible excuse to justify its action.
The prolonged delays are putting the employers in a quandary. One of them, Lina Abdullah, a mother of three, told the NST recently that she might not find a replacement for her maid, who has to return home next month.
"I have called almost every agent in the Klang Valley since the ministry put up the list on its website in January, but none could provide me with the bio-data of maids.
"My worry is that there will be no one to take care of my children, as my husband and I work and we have no extended family here to take care of them."