THE Indonesian government banned the country’s nationals from coming to work as maids in Malaysia with effect from Friday, just a day after its manpower minister announced the decision in Jakarta.
The sudden action has all the appearance of haste, while piling pressure on Malaysia to expedite changes in the terms of employment favouring maids.
Malaysia’s Human Resources Ministry had not even received the official letter to the effect when the entire country learned about it in the news.
Employers and maid agencies here will suffer losses through prior payments, such as deposits and fees. Such immediate and wilful disruptions of agreements also adversely affect sourcing agencies on the Indonesian side.
This is clearly bad form and bad business practice – it is unethical, sows ill will, and where contracts have been violated, unlawful as well. But Jakarta seems to have some reasons for its abrupt action.
When such policies exert a shock effect on the host country, it usually comes as a bargaining chip for the source country. But it could backfire.
There is also an undeclared rationale for this particular action coming at this point in time.
Indonesians go to the polls in 10 days to elect a new president. In the current campaigns, incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s two challengers – his Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri – are said to be closing in.
Political expediency would therefore seem to dictate events, at least for now.
Officially, the ban on Indonesian maids will stay until Malaysia is seen and said to have improved the work conditions for them.
The Indonesian manpower minister is scheduled to arrive here in early July to hold tough talks for those conditions. Indonesian voters will no doubt hear much about that heroic mission just days before the election.
Meanwhile, Malaysia should waste no time in sourcing for maids from other countries. Much has been heard about errant employers in Malaysia, but not quite enough about supposedly trained but still incompetent and dysfunctional maids from Indonesia.
In the interests of market competition, reducing needless dependence and much of everything else, diversifying the number of source countries is necessary and urgent.