Wed, 28 Jun 2000

Five RI workers overseas may face death sentence

JAKARTA (JP): At least five Indonesian workers overseas have been charged with murder and are facing possible death sentences.

Director General of Manpower Placement and Development Din Syamsuddin revealed on Tuesday that two workers in Saudi Arabia, two workers in Singapore and one in Malaysia have all been charged with murder.

In Saudi Arabia, Siti Zaenab from Bangkalan, East Java, could face a death sentence for allegedly killing her employer's wife, while Setiadi is charged with murdering a fellow Indonesian worker.

Two workers in Singapore, Ikaesih Dul Holid from Cirebon, West Java and Sumiyem from Tulung Agung, East Java, were accused of murdering their employers' babies.

Ikaesih is accused of throwing a baby from the third floor of an apartment, while Sumiyem allegedly poured mercury into the baby's mouth.

Meanwhile, an Indonesian worker in Malaysia named Mariana is also accused of murdering her employer's baby in Johor Baru by placing adhesive tape all over the baby's mouth.

Din said the government would do its best to save the lives of these Indonesians.

"We will do anything we can. We've hired lawyers to defend them, and we even asked Amnesty International to help us. Today, it has asked us to send the pictures of the workers," he said in a hearing with House of Representatives' Commission VI on Human Resources and Religion Affairs.

Among the five, the case seems to be more difficult for Mariana and Sumiyem as both are illegal workers.

The issue has come to the fore again after the death penalty was carried out on Indonesian worker Warni in Saudi Arabia last week.

Prior to this the government has been relatively successful in saving the lives of several workers abroad sentenced to death.

In April a court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced Sriningsih from Brebes, Central Java to be stoned to death for killing a Sri Lankan co-worker.

"But our government succeeded in rescuing Sriningsih from the death penalty. So she was only given a 15-year prison sentence. But we will also try to appeal that and ask for clemency," Din said.

Earlier Kartini binti Karim from Karawang, West Java, who was accused of adultery, also escaped death row in the same country after the government intervened.

"Unfortunately in Warni's case, we failed," he added.

Minister of Manpower Bomer Pasaribu said the government did its best to save Warni's life.

"We've recruited a top lawyer there which cost us around US$9,000. We asked prominent figures like ulemas to help us negotiate and we asked for clemency from the victim's family. We tried everything, but it failed," said Bomer.

According to Din, such efforts should be a joint effort between various government institutions and not the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Manpower.

Din said another important factor was the absence of a labor agreement between these respective countries.

He said Indonesia currently only has manpower agreements with Malaysia and Kuwait which can help it protect its workers. He added that an agreement with Qatar, South Korea and Jordan is in the pipeline.

"An agreement with Saudi Arabia is very difficult to reach. We've talked with the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Indonesia five times to discuss it. We've talked with the Minister of Labor in Riyadh, and President Abdurrahman Wahid himself has even talked with King Fahd...But they still seem unwilling," Din remarked.

To protect Indonesian workers overseas, the Ministry has employed an insurance companies consortium system which does not only compensate accidents or deaths, but also provides legal aid.

In Warni's case for example, the insurance company paid the lawyers.

Despite President Abdurrahman's assertion earlier this year that he would allow unskilled labor to be sent overseas, Bomer said he would like to see the number go down in the coming year.

He added that skilled labor was in high demand, with the most requested professions being nurses, agroindustry workers, sailors, and Information Technology specialists.

Bomer claimed that Japan has asked for around 400,000 nurses while Taiwan needs around 400,000 construction workers from Indonesia.

In the United States, around 400,000 to 500,000 sailors are sought.

"But the problem is, many of our workers don't meet the standards," said Bomer.

He pointed out that out of 12,000 Indonesian applications for nursing positions in Japan, only 2,000 were accepted.

He further added that out of some 70,000 Indonesian sailors in the United States, at least 40,000 are "troubled" as they do not meet International Marine Organization (IMO) standards.

There are over 1.2 million Indonesian workers overseas. Most are located in the Middle East and Malaysia. (09)