Sat, 05 Mar 2005

Indonesian officials need to get their act together

V.K. Chin, The Star, Asia News Network, Selangor, Malaysia

The campaign to get the Indonesian workers to return to Malaysia on a fast-track basis seems to have hit a snag.

Instead of tens of thousands of them coming back as legal workers in a matter of weeks if not days, it may be some time before this will happen.

The delay is puzzling as both governments were quite determined to smoothen the process at the recent meetings between leaders of the two countries.

Jakarta has promised full co-operation in providing all the necessary facilities so that those Indonesians who left Malaysia as illegal immigrants could return with the proper documents for them to earn a living.

Tens of thousands of them took up the government's amnesty offer, which expired on Feb. 28, before the crackdown on the illegal immigrants.

As a carrot, they were told that their applications would be speeded up for them to resume work here if they left voluntarily.

Unfortunately, this is not happening and the hold-up is naturally causing concern for the Malaysian government, the employers and the affected Indonesians who are waiting anxiously at home to be re-employed.

It is obvious that the decisions made at the top were not being implemented at the ground level in the Republic.

Malaysian officials had expected a rush for applications and 11 centers were set up in Indonesia to meet this eventuality.

Instead the 50-odd immigration officers are sitting there with nothing to do and this situation should not be allowed to continue for long without long-term effects on the Malaysian economy, not to mention bilateral relations.

The hitch appears to be the formation of an Indonesian consortium to handle all applications from Indonesians wishing to rejoin their employers in Malaysia.

It is only with the consortium's approval that the applicants could make a formal application to the Malaysian Immigration officials based there for the work permit so that they could start their return journey.

It is unclear what is holding things up at the consortium and it is up to the Indonesian government to look into this as quickly as possible as the long wait is not doing anybody any good.

Malaysian employers will not be able to carry on with their operations while the Indonesians unable to find work will face difficulties looking after themselves and their families, while Jakarta will lose valuable foreign exchange.

The government and employers can only wait so long for the return of the Indonesian workers and if the situation should remain the same, then it will be necessary to look for labor alternatives to fill the vacancies.

Once this decision is made, the employment door will most probably be closed for the Indonesians and this will be a matter of regret for both sides.

If some Indonesian officials should feel that they could use pressure on Malaysia for whatever reason, then they would be doing their country and fellow countrymen a great disservice.