05/18/2010, 00.00
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Highs and lows of 7th summit between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur

Joint Committee, maritime boundaries and condition of workers top agenda in talks between Yudhoyono and Najib. Issue of maritime boundaries remains unresolved, while day off and minimum wage for Indonesian workers in Malaysia are discussed. Conditions of domestic workers, victims of abuse and violence.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) – A wider scope of action for the Joint Committee between Malaysia and Indonesia; new talks for the settlement of maritime boundaries; a Memorandum of Understanding relating to the plight of Indonesian workers in Malaysia, with a particular reference to domestic workers who are often victims of violence or abuse. These were the central points of discussion at the meeting today in Putrajaya between Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

After the talks President Yudhoyono declined to release official statements. It was thus the Malaysian Prime Minister who spoke to journalists about the outcome of talks, stressing that "the Seventh Annual Consultation" between the two countries showed a resumption in diplomatic and economic relations.

In the foreground the role of the Malaysia-Indonesia Joint Commission, called to strengthen bilateral relations. Najib said that it will document the progress of working groups - on a quarterly basis - to the leaders of both nations. The Commission will be a monitoring mechanism and initiative to resolve outstanding issues.

Among items for discussion is the definition of maritime boundaries, still at a stalemate despite the 14 meetings between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian Prime Minister stressed that there remain some complex points to address "that require time, such as the issue of maritime boundaries." New “impulses” are needed to soften the entrenched positions of the two governments. This, said Najib, does not mean that relations between Indonesia and Malaysia are not good.

The two leaders also discussed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding concerning Indonesian workers in Malaysia. Among the demands of Jakarta is a weekly day of rest for workers, an extra wage in cases of redundancy, and the possession of passports, which must remain in the hands of the worker unless there are prior agreements with the employer.  However the issue of a minimum wage remains to be addressed.

For over a year Jakarta has blocked the sending of Indonesian maids to the neighbouring nation, following complaints of harassment and abuse, which in some cases lead to rape and murder. At present there are about 230 thousand domestic workers in Malaysia who still do not have basic rights including minimum wage and weekly day of rest.

Every year, hundreds of Indonesian maids present themselves at the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to denounce unpaid wages, excessive work loads and psychological and physical abuse. In the past several Malaysians were arrested on charges of abusing domestic staff, some trials are currently pending where the accused has to answer for murder following the discovery of corpses of women with deep wounds and signs of violence.  

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