Thu, 27 May 2004

Police rescue 13 women in North Sumatra

The Jakarta Post, Medan/Bandung/Kupang

Police officers in Medan, North Sumatra, claimed on Wednesday that they had rescued 13 women seeking work in Malaysia, who had been locked up by labor recruitment agency PT Bagus Bersaudara for two weeks at its office on Jl. Danau Limboto.

The women from East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province were freed after their families, who had not heard from them for two weeks, contacted the police.

The incident happened only days after the case of Nirmala Bonat, an Indonesian maid from NTT abused by her Malaysian employee, made headlines in the national media.

Chief of Medan Police detectives Adj. Comr. Maruli Siahaan said that the police had questioned the 13 women, and learned that there were 25 other women from NTT still locked up at another location.

"Police have deployed a team to track down the women and the management of the labor recruitment agency," said Maruli.

The police personnel broke through a door on Wednesday at the company's office to release the 13 women, while no one representing the company was found there.

Maruli also said that the police were also investigating the possibility that the women were to be sold into prostitution in Malaysia.

During police questioning, the women recalled that they arrived two weeks ago in Medan, after being offered work by Joni, a staffer at PT Bagus Bersaudara, who promised them work in amusement centers in Malaysia.

But, they suspected something fishy after they were locked up by the company in its office on Jl. Limboto and prevented from leaving.

"We are afraid that in the end, we would be sold as prostitutes in Malaysia," said Meri Kila, one of the women.

Meanwhile, the 13 women arrived home on Wednesday afternoon after being questioned by police investigators in Medan.

They were flown home on a Batavia Air flight and arrived in Kupang at 7 p.m.

Chief of the general crime division at East Nusa Tenggara Provincial Police Adj. Sr. Comr. Wijanarko said police investigators here would look into whether they had been recruited illegally by labor recruitment agency PT Akbar Insan Prima in NTT.

It would also probe the connection between PT Akbar Insan Prima and PT Bagus Bersaudara in the case.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Association of Labor Recruitment Agency's (APJTKI) East Nusa Tenggara chapter, Abraham Liyanto, said that PT Akbar Insan Prima was not registered with the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration and therefore was illegal.

Separately, an official with the West Java provincial administration said on the same day that at least 73 Indonesian migrant workers from West Java had been stranded at the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia for several months.

Thirty-four of the total 73 migrant workers, all of them women, are being questioned by Malaysian Police for allegedly working as sex workers.

Of the remaining 39 men and women housed by the embassy, some do not have proper documents, while others are in poor health.

Sukarto Karnen, the head of West Java provincial administration's manpower office said that he received the information from the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia, which admitted that it lacked funds to bring the workers home.

In a letter sent to the manpower office recently, the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia sought assistance to bring them home, said Sukarto.