Indonesian woman beheaded in Saudi Arabia, Jakarta threatens to stop flow of migrants
by Mathias Hariyadi
A 54-year-old woman was beheaded last Saturday for killing her employer. The Indonesian Embassy was unaware of her trial because Saudi authorities failed to inform them. Indonesian public opinion reacts strongly to the incident.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian public opinion has reacted with indignation to reports that an Indonesian woman, Ruyati binti Satubi Saruna, 54, was beheaded in Saudi Arabia, after being convicted of murder. Many Indonesians blame their own government for not doing enough to protect Indonesian migrant workers, falling short of what the Filipino government was able to do.
In 2007, then Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo got personally involved in order to save the life of a Filipino domestic worker sentenced to death in Kuwait on 9 December 2007. Two years later to the day, the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, promised that he would not sign the execution order against Marillou Ranario. The Filipino woman had been sentenced to death for killing her employer in 2005. Arroyo had flown to Kuwait to discuss the matter with the emir, and Ranario was thus spared the noose.
News about the beheading reached Indonesia last Saturday. It sent the country the signal that the Indonesian government was indifferent to the fate of its citizens abroad.
The execution raised tensions between Jakarta and Riyadh since the Indonesian government and its Embassy in Jeddah were not officially informed of Ruyati’s trial or the charges against her.
Ruyati binti Satubi Saruna was convicted for killing her employer, and sentenced to death by beheading despite a history of abuse and psychological problems.
Her body was buried in Saudi Arabia because under Saudi law the body of someone beheaded cannot be repatriated to his or her native land. This gave rise to strong emotional reactions in Indonesian public opinion.
Jakarta has reacted to the affair by recalling its ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Gatoy Abdullah Mansyur, for “further consultations”.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa also announced that his ministry was studying various measures in a response to the execution. Marty was criticised however because the Indonesia’s diplomatic envoy in Jeddah was unaware of the trial and was thus unable to provide Ruyati with legal assistance.
The foreign minister admitted that the Embassy was not aware of the case and that execution took place without Indonesian consent. “It is unacceptable that there was no official notification by Saudi authorities,” he said.
For his part, Indonesian Labour Minister Muhaimin Iskandar threatened to impose a moratorium on Indonesian workers going to Saudi Arabia.
“Yes, it would be better to have a moratorium,” presidential special assistant Heru Lelono said. “This absence of official information very seriously harmed the relationship between the two nations.”