Thu, 18 Aug 1994

Returning workers told to be discreet with cash

JAKARTA (JP): City councilors are encouraging Indonesians returning from work assignments abroad to travel cash-light to better escape extortionists lurking around the Soekarno-Hatta airport.

"They can carry just a small amount of money to buy food and cover transportation expenses but they would be better off transferring most of their money to the nearest bank in their hometowns," said Fauzie Ibrahim, a member of the City Council Commission C which is in charge of financial affairs, early this week.

"I think they could use Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) since it has branches in every regency," Fauzie added.

A similar statement was made by Hasan Dasy, a member of Commission B which handles economic affairs.

"The scheme will protect them from the notorious extortionists who used to prey on returning workers," he said.

Hasan said that he will attempt to persuade the manpower ministry to follow his advice.

So far, some of the manpower supply companies (PJTKI) which are responsible for sending the workers abroad have faced closer scrutiny for allegedly oppressing the workers.

Kompas daily reported yesterday that every departing or returning worker was pressured into paying between Rp 1.5 million (US$694) and Rp 2 million to the agencies that sent them abroad.

Jakarta Military Commander Maj. Gen. Hendropriyono said on Tuesday that at least 30 people, including four military officers, have been detained for extorting workers at the airport.

He said that 250 military officers and 50 policemen have been deployed to crack down on extortionists.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Manpower indicated during his inspection tour at Soekarno-Hatta airport on Tuesday that his ministry will not involve manpower exporting companies in the arrival process.

He also said that his ministry and Garuda Indonesia, the state-owned airline company, will arrange a new integrated scheme to organize the workers' departures, arrivals and transport to their hometowns.

"The scheme is expected to protect the workers from extortion," he said.

Hasan also said that the ministry should review its policy on the companies because of their negative behavior.

"Their role should be reduced because they have treated the workers like a commodity," he said.

He said that the companies should protect the workers because they are not shielded under the protection of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (SPSI).

Hasan's statement was approved by Fauzi, who is also the vice chairman of the Jakarta chapter of SPSI, who added that the union only protects workers employed in formal sectors. (03)