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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Opportunity for KL, Jakarta to ease the strain - NST

ALL eyes are on today's official meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Indonesian counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for a resolution to bilateral issues that have put a strain on relations between the two countries.

While Malaysia is expecting a closure to the maid issue, the Indonesian side is seeking more information on Malaysia's alleged intrusion into the republic's territory in western Kalimantan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia was all geared up for the 8th Malaysia-Indonesia Annual Leaders' Consultation in Lombok today despite anti-Malaysia protests in Indonesia last week.

In a recent statement issued by his ministry, Anifah had said the anti-Malaysia sentiment was not shared by the Indonesian government.

"We have been assured nothing will hinder the smooth progress of the meeting."

An official from the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Indonesian senior officials were also looking forward to the meeting so that bilateral relations could be taken to the next level.

It is against this backdrop that the Malaysian government is hoping for a renewal and strengthening of bilateral ties following a rather tumultuous year for both countries.

For starters, the ban on Indonesian maids had been going on for far too long. And Malaysians, as well as the Indonesians, want it solved.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam is confident the freeze will be lifted during the talks.

He said discussions had been on for some time and, hopefully today, there would be an end to the moratorium.

Indonesia imposed a freeze on the sending of domestic helpers here following a few high-profile cases of mistreatment and abuse of maids in 2009.

In May this year, a new memorandum of understanding was signed between the two countries to allow for the recruitment of maids.

Among the conditions agreed upon is that the employer will get a replacement maid or compensation for the deposit paid to the employment agency involved, if the maid runs away, is inefficient or fails the medical test within six months of employment.

But, two weeks ago, Indonesia announced the moratorium had not been lifted pending a proper framework being put in place.

A source from the Indonesian embassy said it was more than just a proper framework, but a recent decision by the Malaysian government to allow the hiring of maids directly, without having to go through agencies.

The move allowed employers to get Indonesian maids to enter Malaysia through a social visit pass with which they could then apply for a work permit through the Immigration Department.

The source said this had not gone down well with the Indonesian government as it would open up loopholes that could result in human trafficking.

He also said direct recruitment of Indonesian maids was in violation of Indonesian laws and this could pose a problem for employers.

On the alleged intrusion into Indonesian territory, the Malaysian government is hoping for a solution to end the "irrational bashing of Malaysia" over trivial and baseless issues.

A few days ago, Najib had called on Malaysia and Indonesia to trace the "demons" who were trying to strain the close ties between the two countries. He said the demonstration outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta could have been staged to draw the attention of certain quarters to problems they were facing.

"Let both countries identify them for the betterment of our bilateral ties," he had said.

The Malaysia-Indonesia border dispute was allegedly raised by deputy chief commissioner T.B. Hasanuddin from Parti Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDI-P). Hasanuddin had claimed Malaysia had illegally occupied 1,500ha of land in Camar Bulan and 800m of beach at Tanjung Datu in western Kalimantan.

But the allegations have been shot down by the Indonesian government and have been described as an "hallucination" by a member of Indonesia's House of Representatives, Dr Ramadhan Pohan, after he had surveyed the disputed area and saw that the border marker stones built by the armies of Malaysia and Indonesia were intact and there was no border intrusion by Malaysia.

In addition to the consultations on bilateral, regional and international issues, the two leaders are also expected to discuss the waiver of high crude palm oil taxes in both countries.

If the talks are successful, oil palm planters in Malaysia and Indonesia, and some six million smallholders, can benefit from higher palm oil prices.

The annual consultations are convened alternately between the two countries. Malaysia hosted the 7th Annual Leaders Consultation in Putrajaya in May last year.

Read more: Opportunity for KL, Jakarta to ease the strain http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/2mimis-2/Article/#ixzz1bHcSTYPG


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