Mon, 13 Mar 2000

Lawyers to be available for RI migrant workers

BANDUNG (JP): A minister said here on Saturday that in a bid to protect Indonesians working abroad from abuse, the government planned to provide them with lawyers.

Minister of Law and Legislation Yusril Ihza Mahendra said the lawyers would help Indonesian workers who happened to get involved in legal cases in the countries in which they worked.

"This (plan) will be significant in providing migrant workers with appropriate legal protection, which the manpower ministry has yet to give. The lawyers will deal with legal problems faced by the workers, such as disputes with their employees or the local government," Yusril said.

He did not go into detail on where the lawyers would be posted, but said he had discussed the plan with manpower minister Bomer Pasaribu and the Association of Labor Export Companies (Apjati). The two had agreed to the plan, he said.

Legal protection for Indonesians, especially women, working abroad became the focus of attention after an Indonesian woman working as a maid in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was sentenced to death by stoning after falling pregnant after sleeping with an Indian worker. She gave birth in prison.

Kartini bin Karim, who has been working in UAE since 1998, claimed last week that she had been raped by the Indian worker.

Reports on Kartini have provoked strong reactions from both the government and non-governmental organizations at home.

Director General of Labor Placement Din Samsuddin flew to the UAE to visit Kartini and in hopes of having her life spared.

Upbeat Yusril said that once the migrant workers got into trouble they could contact the lawyers. "One lawyer may represent 200 workers."

Indonesia has been sending mostly unskilled workers to Singapore, Malaysia, the Gulf countries and other East Asia countries.

"We will discuss a possible legal deal with the countries' authorities on the plan," he said, adding that government representatives would be traveling abroad on March 24 and March 25 on a fact-finding mission concerning the matter. (25/sur)