After a five-year battle, the Indonesian government has won the fight to free an Indonesian maid from death row in Malaysia.
The Indonesian government worked hard to secure Wilfrida Soik’s release while maintaining a hardline stance on its own death row prisoners, including Bali Nine pair Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who were executed in April this year for drug trafficking offences.
Now the Indonesian government is threatening to ban Indonesians from travelling to Malaysia to work as maids unless work conditions are improved.
Ms Soik, 24, is a mentally ill woman who Indonesia said was trafficked to Malaysia.
In 2010, she was charged with stabbing and murdering her elderly Malaysian employer 42 times.
Her defence team argued she was constantly verbally and physically abused.
“We thank the Indonesian government and Malaysia for their cooperation in the last five years,” Ms Soik’s uncle, Cornelis, said.
“We thank thousands of people who got involved in the case.
“We want to say thank you to the country.”
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Indonesian authorities said Ms Soik was in the care of doctors in Malaysia and was too ill to be moved home yet.
“She has been tortured by the employer … this is a combination of physical and psychological abuse by the employer,” the deputy Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia, Hermano, said.
“This is of course a happy ending for her, but again, this is a lesson learned – that if we send our people to work in foreign countries without proper preparation, this kind of situation may happen.”
Indonesia considers travel ban for would-be foreign workers
According to the deputy ambassador, 1.5 million Indonesians are working in Malaysia illegally.
He said 250,000 of them are domestic workers and half do not have a work permit.
At the Indonesian embassy in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, a shelter for mistreated maids is full.
“At any one time there’s no less than 100 [women in the shelter],” Hermano said.
“We continuously send them back to Indonesia, and then they come again.”
Indonesia wants better working conditions for its citizens in Malaysia, including a rise in the minimum monthly wage, which is currently around $300-400.
If Malaysia refuses, Indonesia says it will ban local women from travelling there to work, just as it did in the Middle East.
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