The Jakarta Post
“Sister, I’m sick. I cannot stop vomiting blood. If I die, please do me a favor. I entrust father and mother to you.”
It was the last text message from 18-year-old Ernawati binti Sujono Konderin, an Indonesian migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, sent to her family on Jan. 26 before her fi nal contact by the phone with her older sister, Yenni Larasati, on Feb. 1. “I was really sad when reading her fi nal text message. I rushed to Jakarta on Jan. 31 from Tanjung Pinang [Riau Islands] to report Ernawati’s situation to the Foreign Ministry,” Yenni said on Tuesday in a press conference at Migrant CARE Headquarters.
“On Feb. 1, [Ernawati] said over the phone that her employer’s son had tried to rape her. She was crying. After that, there were no more calls or text messages from her.”
Yenni said Ernawati was forced to kneel while her employer often slapped, punched, kicked, threw things at her or whipped her with a hose. The employer’s lover allegedly followed suit. She never received her salary, Yenni added. Ernawati died on Feb. 10, 10 days after Yenni fi led the report, from injuries allegedly sustained from physical abuse at the hands of her employer and his lover, according to Yenni.
“Every time I asked a ministry employee about my report, they told me it was still being processed — until my sister’s co-worker called our family on Feb. 10, saying she had died.” Yenni said she was fi nally convinced of her sister’s death on Feb. 13, when someone at a hospital called her on Ernawati’s cell phone after Yenni’s numerous text messages and phone calls went unanswered.
“The guy at the other end said there was an Indonesian who had died and had been at the hospital for three days. I got all this information on my own, not from the ministry or the embassy,” Yenni said.
In a letter the Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Gatot Abdullah Mansyur, sent in February to the foreign minister, the manpower and transmigration minister and the head of the National Agency for Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), he said that the Al-Muntazah police in Hail had received a report about an Indonesian migrant worker who was being treated for swallowing rat poison.
“How can the ministry and the embassy say my sister died from rat poison while at the same time they tell me an autopsy on her body is about to begin?” Yenni said. She also said the ministry and the embassy insisted they could not reach Ernawati’s workplace in time because it was in Hail, 700 kilometers from the embassy.
“Was it really that hard to get there? I fl ew from Tanjung Pinang, more than a thousand kilometers from Jakarta, to seek justice and it took only one hour and 20 minutes,” she said.
“Had they immediately followed up on my report and evacuated my sister, she might still alive now.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene and the director for legal aid and protection of Indonesian nationals overseas, Tatang Budie Utama Razak, could not be reached for comment.
University of Indonesia international relations expert Hariyadi Wirawan said embassy staff did not arrive in time possibly due to diplomats’ reluctance to travel that distance or a lack of fi nancial and human resources.
Only two weeks ago, an Indonesian maid named Ruyati binti Satubi was beheaded by Saudi authorities after being convicted of murdering her employer, who had mistreated her.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Indonesia Abdulrahman Mohammed Amen al-Khayyat at the latter’s request at the State Palace on Tuesday.
However, instead of expressing displeasure, Yudhoyono hailed Saudi Arabia for “giving aid” to an Islamic organization.
Migrant CARE executive director Anis Hidayah said she had reported the ministry, the embassy and the BNP2TKI to the Ombudsman Commission, which receives complaints of poor public service, for alleged “negligence that led to Ernawati’s death”.