Fri, 05 Aug 1994

Stop harassing workers: Soeharto

JAKARTA (JP): President Soeharto yesterday warned officials against harassing Indonesian workers upon their return from overseas, following reports that many of them were subjected to extortion on their arrival at the airport.

"Don't make things difficult for them, either when they leave or return," Minister of Manpower Abdul Latief quoted Soeharto as saying yesterday.

"These people have worked hard to earn their money overseas, and on their return are harassed and even exposed to extortion," the President reportedly said.

Latief acknowledged that these practices have been occurring at some of the airports, saying that he once saw it with his own eyes during an inspection.

These officials pretended to offer help, arranging transportation from the airport to home towns for the returning workers. Others also offered to exchange their Saudi riyal for rupiah. But they ended up extorting the workers, according to Latief.

The minister said he had already removed nine staff of the ministry who worked at the airport for undisciplined actions and said he hoped other ministers whose staff are also involved in harassing returning workers would also follow suit soon.

The sending of Indonesian workers overseas is a lucrative business and a major potential foreign exchange revenue for the country.

The government hopes that before the turn of the century, Indonesia will be able to send a total of two million workers abroad.

Latief said the government is also considering setting up special immigration and customs gates at airports to deal with Indonesian workers who work overseas.

Currently some one million Indonesian workers are registered to be working overseas, including 500,000 in Saudi Arabia and 400,000 in Malaysia. This number excludes the thousands of Indonesians who work in Malaysia illegally.

Latief said that to phase out the sending of unskilled workers, the government plans to introduce a quota system to manpower supplier companies beginning next year.

In 1995, these companies must at least send 20 percent skilled workers of their overall total, rising to 40 and 50 percent the following year and to 100 percent by 1999. (emb)