Thursday, October 19, 2006

Singapore workers are homeward bound

Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post, Semarang

Lasminah smiled brightly upon landing back home in Semarang, Central Java, along with 78 other migrant workers after a spell working in Singapore.

With dollars in hand, the 42-year-old painted a rosy picture of working overseas compared to the usual gloomy stories that fill the Indonesian media.

"I'm home for Idul Fitri. I return home regularly so I'm not confused," said Lasminah as she dragged two large suitcases through Ahmad Yani airport's arrivals hall.

"I've been working in Singapore for eight years as a maid. The pay is good, so I still like working there. My husband and child, who is in high school, live at home," Lasminah, a native of Sukorejo in Kendal regency, told The Jakarta Post.

Another migrant worker, Suwarni from Pati, appeared to be overwhelmed by her two large suitcases and three other bags.

"It's no problem. There are many porters who can carry my luggage to the vehicle where my relatives are waiting," she said.

The arriving migrant workers, while simply attired, were better dressed than their relatives, who came from various villages and towns along the north coast of Java, such as Batang, Demak, Kendal, Pati, Rembang and Semarang, to pick them up.

The workers said they were happy working in Singapore as the pay was quite high.

"I'm getting paid S$500 per month, or about Rp 2,700,000. That's a lot of money to send home to my family," said Lasminah, who wanted her sisters to go to the neighboring country to work like her.

Years of working in Singapore, however, has not changed the migrants much, and they continue to converse with each other in Javanese.

"I'm still Javanese. We usually gather at the Geylang Market in Singapore on our days off. We feel like we're in our own village. So, there's no reason for not feeling at ease there," said Lasminah.

Outside, dozens of vehicles were lined up in the parking lot to pick them up. Some 200 relatives had turned up to greet their families' "heroes", and everyone was soon hugging and kissing each other.

Ahmad Yani Airport duty manager Ahmad Punto Yudhoyono said that in the past three days, many migrant workers had returned home through the airport. Forty-eight female migrant workers had landed in Semarang from Malaysia earlier in the day.

"This airport is closer to their hometowns, compared to the Adisumarmo Airport in Surakarta," said Punto.

Meanwhile, the seaborne Idul Fitri influx has also begun in earnest at Tanjung Emas port in Semarang. A number of ferries -- such as the Eron from Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan; Sinabung from Makassar in South Sulawesi; Senopati from Cirebon, West Java; and Kirana from Sampit, West Kalimantan -- have discharged hundreds of passengers.

"We come from Wonosobo. My wife and I and our two children are returning for Idul Fitri. I work in an oil-palm plantation in Kumai, Central Kalimantan," said Suyatno.

Even though he only earns Rp 27,500 per day, Suyatno said he was happy as he had a regular income and the company provided school transportation for his two children.

At Semarang's Poncol railway station, a number of migrant workers who had just arrived back from Jakarta by economy train said they were determined to continue their journey to Bojonegoro by freight train.

"It doesn't matter if it's less comfortable. The important thing is that we arrive safely," said Sutrisno from Bojonegoro.

Kusnadi, the stationmaster at Poncol, said he had prohibited passengers from riding on freight trains, but they never paid any heed.


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