SBY Offers Support to Abused Maid

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono telephoned Siti Hajar on Thursday to offer his support to the Indonesian migrant worker who claims to hav...

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono telephoned Siti Hajar on Thursday to offer his support to the Indonesian migrant worker who claims to have been abused by her Malaysian employer.

“I already talked directly to Siti Hajar [by phone], to put her mind at ease and to toughen [her] up,” Yudhoyono said at his office in Jakarta.

Metro TV aired footage of Siti receiving the phone call from Yudhoyono in Kuala Lumpur on the cellular phone of Indonesia’s ambassador to Malaysia, Da’i Bachtiar. The call lasted about three minutes.

Originally from West Java’s Garut district, Siti has claimed that she was abused by the Malaysian woman she worked for as a domestic servant, and that she did not receive her salary for 34 months.

Siti reportedly began working for Hau Yuang Tyng, also known as Michelle, in 2006. Her contract called for her to be paid 500 Malaysian ringgit ($140) per month.

Yudhoyono said he was concerned by Siti’s situation and deplored the violence frequently suffered by Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia.

He said that he had ordered Bachtiar and the head of the National Migrant Workers Placement and Protection Agency, Mohammad Jumhur Hidayat, to protect and seek justice for Indonesian workers in Malaysia.

Yudhoyono said that based on reports he had received, Malaysian law enforcers had been responsive and cooperative in handling Siti’s case.

He also thanked the Malaysian media for covering Siti’s story in a positive light.

“I still want law and justice to be really enforced,” Yudhoyono added.

Separately, Anis Hidayah, executive director of labor watchdog Migrant Care, expressed concern over Yudhoyono’s telephone call, saying that he might be seeking to use Siti’s situation to score political points ahead of July’s presidential election.

“Even though he spoke as the president, it still sounds suspicious,” Anis said. “Not once before did he ever personally call an abused migrant worker.”

Anis said the government needed to issue a strong regulation to protect migrant workers. “A case-by-case solution will not end the problem,” she said.

Jamaluddin, coordinator of advocacy at the Indonesian Migrant Workers Association, said many abuses went unreported.

“The government cannot deny the fact that there are still many other [women like] Siti Hajar out there,” Jamaluddin said.

He said that there needed to be an agreement between Indonesia and Malaysia to regulate foreign migrant workers in both countries.

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