Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Anti-Malaysian sentiments on the rise in Indonesia

The Star, Malaysia

MALACCA: Malaysians are advised to refrain from visiting Indonesia
following reports that anti-Malaysia sentiments there are on the rise.

“Don’t travel (to Indonesia) unless it is necessary,” said Foreign
Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, adding that Indonesian
politicians were playing up on the issue of their countrymen being
packed back home by Malaysian authorities.

Recently, 15 Malaysians were detained recently by police in Medan for
not carrying their passports while at a hotel lobby. They have been

Speaking to reporters after opening the Asean Patriotism Conference,
organised by the Malaysian Institute of Historical and Patriotism
Studies here yesterday, Syed Hamid blamed the Indonesian politicians
for capitalising on the issue.

The Indonesian press too was playing up on the issue, he said, adding
that their reports incited hatred among the Indonesian people against

“They are not telling the truth. We send back illegal immigrants, but
there are thousands of them working here and send money home every
month,” the minister said.

Syed Hamid said it was not only the illegal immigrants from Indonesia
who were sent back. Those from other countries were also repatriated,
he added.

He thanked the Indonesian authorities for releasing the 15 Malaysians
held in Medan earlier.

Syed Hamid said the Malaysian Consul-General in Medan met the governor
to discuss the matter.

Speaking to the delegates, Syed Hamid said the conference was a

good platform for them to learn from each other about diversity in
history, political and economic systems, culture as well as the
experiences in nation building.

“I hope that such understanding will improve co-operation and
solidarity among us,” he said.

In Jakarta, The Star correspondent ANDREAS HARSONO reports that an
Indonesian group protesting against Kuala Lumpur’s decision to whip
illegal immigrants almost toppled the main gate of the Malaysian
embassy yesterday.

They were stopped after police warned them they would be arrested.

“The gate almost came off its rail,” said an embassy security guard.

About 50 demonstrators chanted slogans and a small delegation later
handed over a protest letter to an embassy official.

The protestors came from a group calling itself Laskar Merah Putih
(Red and White Militia), after the colours of the Indonesian flag.

Indonesia’s national assembly chairman Amien Rais had criticised
Malaysia for what he called

”inhumane” and “insulting” punishment of caning illegal immigrants,
sparking a rebuke from Kuala Lumpur.

The implementation of tough new immigration laws followed a July 31
expiry of an amnesty period, which saw the exodus of more than 300,000
illegal immigrants. Courts have since sentenced several workers –
those without valid papers and those who overstayed their permits – to
jail and caning.

Teten Masduki of the Indonesian Corruption Watch, himself a former
labour activist, supported Amien’s statement in an interview with RRI
radio, saying one should not be caned just because of “documents

On Sunday, Indonesian Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihsa
Mahendra admitted the government’s negligence in dealing with the
problem, saying: “In February we conveyed (to relevant government
agencies) the result of a joint commission meeting with the Malaysian
Government but it was not followed up.

“The issue of illegal workers must be resolved immediately. So far, we
have not done much,” Yusril was quoted as saying by Antara, without
revealing the names of government agencies that failed to follow up on
the bilateral meeting.

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