INDONESIA is planning to impose a moratorium on the employment of Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia. If it goes ahead with this plan, Indonesia must be advised that it will be a step backwards.
Because, the employment of domestic workers boils down to an economic issue of supply and demand: Malaysian households need domestic workers and Indonesians want to work as domestic workers in Malaysia.
And, work is aplenty in Malaysia. Should the moratorium be imposed, it helps neither Indonesia nor Malaysia.
Indonesian domestic workers will still enter Malaysia, though this time illegally, thus putting themselves at risk of breaking the law.
Plus, working illegally will also deny these domestic workers any recourse to compensation from the employers. Instead of the lose-lose approach of the moratorium, Indonesia may want to hear out Malaysia’s proposal.
And, Malaysia’s proposal is a very progressive idea, too: standard operating procedure. The SOP can put to rest Indonesia’s concern about the safety of its people employed by Malaysian households.
It may be a novel idea as applied to an employer-domestic worker relationship, but like all SOPs, it will spell out what each party should do in all foreseeable circumstances, thus safeguarding each party’s rights. If it needs be, this SOP can be part of the memorandum of understanding between Malaysia and Indonesia, thus providing government-to-government assurance in managing the employer-domestic worker relationship.
The MoU, which expired in 2016, needs to be renewed, though. A further assurance that we can give Indonesia is that Malaysia has in place a comprehensive web-based digital work horse — Agency Link-Up System— that connects all government agencies, including the police and Immigration Department.
Any potential employer of a foreign domestic worker, who has a police record, will not be allowed to employ one. No dark secrets of employers will escape the Agency Link-Up System. The point is: the safety of Indonesian domestic workers, who are employed through the proper channel, is assured.
We all agree that the person who caused the death of Adelina Lisao is a monster, and like all monsters, must be made to face the full force of the law. But, this does not mean that behind the closed doors of every Malaysian home, there lurks a monster. In fact, many Indonesian domestic workers have come forward praising their Malaysian employers after the death of Adelina made the headlines in Malaysia and overseas. This must mean one thing. That Adelina’s death is an isolated case.
Even in this and other isolated cases in the past, the long arm of the law was quick to catch up with the menace of the monsters. In Adelina’s case, soon after the police got a whiff of her case, they arrested the alleged perpetrators, two sibling employers and their mother.
From the government down to the man on the Rapid Bus, all want justice done in Adelina’s death. Malaysia’s legal system will not only ensure that justice is done but also that justice is seen to be done. Indonesia must know, as it surely knows, that moratorium is directionally wrong.