06 August 2009

Indonesian and Malaysian Relations

It seems that the Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia has a few issues with the manner in which the Indonesian press cover Malaysia. Specifically, the issue is that the Indonesian press are, more often than not, portraying Malaysia in a negative light.

The focus of much of the Indonesian media when it comes to Malaysia relates to abuse. The abuse of Indonesian migrant workers, and more recently of the social-climbing starlet wanna be, Manohara Odelia Pinot.

The Ambassador's beef is that violence towards Indonesian migrant workers does not only happen in Malaysia. This is true. The Ambassador is right in pointing out that violence against Indonesia's migrant workers also occurs in Saudi Arabia and even in Indonesia before the prospective migrant workers get a chance to be abused overseas. This hardly seems like a viable excuse to cut Malaysia some slack.

The Ambassador, in essence, states that it is not Malaysian government policy to allow Indonesia's migrant workers to be abused on arrival in Malaysia or for the course of their working placement. This would seem to be a no-brainer, as if it was a government policy then the media coverage would undoubtedly be even more negative than it is now.

According to the Ambassador, anyone who is alleged to have abused someone, Indonesian migrant workers included, would be charged and prosecuted, and if convicted punished to the full extent permissible under Malaysian law.

The reason this is an issue is that Indonesia has ceased sending migrant workers to Malaysia until the issues relating to abuse are more fully resolved, particularly with respect to protections afforded to vulnerable migrant workers. A deal on this matter seems far from assured at the present point in time.

However, where it gets really interesting is that the Ambassador offers up the following example of why the coverage by the Indonesian media is negative: "Please don't portray us as bad people. Fifty percent of prisoners in Malaysia are Indonesians, why do we never hear about this in the news?"

Reading between the lines here; Indonesians that come to Malaysia are bad people because 50% of the total number of prisoners in Malaysian jails are Indonesians. So, we are clearly not as bad as Indonesians. Although, an alternative reading might be that Malaysians have a real problem with Indonesia and Indonesians, and whenever they get the chance will preferably put an Indonesian in jail.

I would have figured that good news is a two-way street. What is good for the goose has got to be good for the gander as well. Perhaps if Malaysian media reported a more balanced picture of Indonesia then perhaps Indonesian media would be equally forthcoming in portraying a more balanced picture of Malaysia.

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