The Jakarta Globe, October 5, 2013.
The case of Indonesian migrant worker Wilfrida Soik, 22, who is facing the death penalty in Malaysia, should serve to push the House of Representatives to ratify a bill of amendments to the migrant worker protection law, women’s empowerment minister Linda Gumelar said on Thursday.
“We are calling for [the draft bill] to be ratified, so that there will be no other Wilfridas in the future as a result of weak Indonesian migrant worker protection laws,” the minister said.
The packet of revisions to the 2004 Law on the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers remains a subject of heated debate between House legislators and the central government.
The Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, representing the government, has proposed several key provisions, including better protection for female migrant workers under the framework of gender equality.
According to the ministry, the existing legislation places too much focus on the placement of migrant workers and very did emphasis on their protection and safety — a point addressed in only one Article 9 in the law.
Linda said the revised law would more comprehensively regulate the protection of migrant workers in foreign countries and actively involve regional governments in such efforts.
“It is not regulated in the old law, so when a case surfaces, regional governments are not included,” Linda said, adding the revisions would also more strictly regulate services by migrant workers agencies, starting from the recruitment process and training, to the placement of workers abroad.
Regarding Wilfrida’s case, Linda said she remained optimistic that a solution would be found, adding that the government was working to gather more evidence to prove that the domestic worker had been a victim of human trafficking.
Linda also vowed to continue monitoring developments and to offer guidance in the case as the government put serious efforts into seeking to ensure that Wilfrida avoided the death sentence.
Wilfrida was arrested for allegedly murdering her 60-year-old employer, Yeap Seok Pen, during an argument that turned violent, according to reports in local media at the time of her arrest. Yeap, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, reportedly accused Wilfrida of sleeping with her 64-year-old husband.
The maid had worked for the family for less than a month and lived in their home in Kampung Lubok, Pasir Mas, Kelantan. She claimed the woman often yelled at her and physically abused her during the time she worked in the house.
The Kota Bharu Court in Malaysia on Monday postponed the verdict in the case as Wilfrida’s legal team moved to introduce new evidence alleging that she was a juvenile at the time of her arrest.
Aside from being a victim of human trafficking, officials are also working to prove Wilfrida’s real age during the incident, which could be an opportunity to avoid the death sentence.
If proven to have been under 18 years of age at the time of the incident, the Malaysian government will not be able to sentence her to death, because, as with Indonesia’s 2002 Child Protection Law, Malaysian law entitles children below 18 years to special protection in any given situation, including in cases like Wilfrida’s.
In addition to her age, Wilfrida had also been sent to work in Malaysia at a time when the Indonesian government had implemented a moratorium on migrant workers being sent to Malaysia, meaning she had been placed there illegally.
“We are hoping that the new evidence that we will be submitting in the next hearing could prove that Wilfrida was a victim too,” Linda said. “Whatever the court decides, we will continue to try and ask for them to ease Wilfrida’s punishment, starting with an appeal and more.”