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Jakarta Post

Editorial: The tale of Satinah

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Thu, March 27, 2014   /  09:49 am

Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad of Semarang, Central Java, is the latest Indonesian on death row in Saudi Arabia, for stealing from and murdering her employer in 2007. A flurry of legal efforts and diplomatic lobbying has led to a potentially lighter sentence '€” the 41-year-old domestic worker might escape beheading if the blood money demanded by the family of her employer, Nura Al Gharib, a sum of 7 million riyals (US$1.9 million), is paid by April 3.

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo is among those leading fundraising efforts across the province to save Satinah, one of thousands of migrants who travel annually to Middle Eastern countries. On Monday, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said the government had raised 4 million riyals, and asked the family to lower the sum of the blood money. He also noted that the demand had likened Satinah'€™s life to a '€œcommodity'€.

To save Satinah we need a miracle. For we are against a mountain of odds '€” piled high long before the apparent transformation of submissive maids to murderous women.

Tourists and expatriates here would also face Indonesian law if proved guilty of crimes, with the harshest sentence also being the death penalty. Thus, Indonesia is not qualified to protest Satinah'€™s looming beheading. And, regardless of Satinah'€™s defense of retaliating against her employer'€™s abuse, the court has ruled her guilty.

The seemingly insurmountable odds that we face each time one of our migrant workers, especially those categorized as '€œunskilled'€, faces trial in a foreign country have been shaped by our own policies, which grossly lack protection for them. Just last month, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar dubbed '€œhistoric'€ as it prioritized Indonesian workers'€™ protection '€” despite the booming business of sending migrant workers overseas since the 1980s.

The MoU itself was triggered by a rare moratorium on the sending of Indonesian workers to Saudi Arabia, after the beheading of Ruyati binti Satubi in June 2011, whose execution was carried out when Indonesia was still requesting clemency for the maid. She was also charged with killing her employer.

Imagine that after some 35 years, it was only last month that we reached an agreement to ensure that workers are not required to hand over their passports to employers. Without their crucial documents, workers are virtually held hostage should they wish to end their employment for various reasons.

An annual average of three or four Indonesian migrant workers die due to various reasons overseas, according to non-governmental organization Migrant Care. Workers could at least gain better assurance of their universal right to decent work conditions if we could ensure the details and mechanism of the MoU will benefit our citizens.

Otherwise, we dread the prospect of another beheading to make snail-paced progress in the fundamental protection of citizens.

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