Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Migrant workers key issue in RI-Malaysia relations

World News - February 26, 2007
Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry on Saturday identified migrant workers as the most crucial of some eight issues that have the potential to strain relations with neighboring Malaysia.

Foreign Ministry director for East Asia and the Pacific, Yuri Thamrin, said here these eight issues included border differences in the Malacca Strait, South China Sea and Sulawesi Sea, as well as terrorism, haze and illegal logging.

"Out of the eight problems, the issue of migrant workers has the most potential to cause tension between the two countries. There are two million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, and every year they have problems.

"That's why both countries should commit to provide better protection for them to prevent the issue becoming a spat that can hurt bilateral relations," Yuri said here Saturday, on the sidelines of a seminar to remember Adam Malik, Indonesia's diplomatic doyen, and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indonesia-Malaysia relations.

Yuri said the 50th anniversary of relations was a good time to draw up a road map to solidify bilateral ties that are mutually benefits for both countries.

He cited tourism, education, health and trade as area with a lot of potential for mutual cooperation.

The seminar, which was opened by the ministry's director general for Asia, Africa and the Pacific Primo Alui Joelianto, also featured several speakers from universities in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Mohamed Mustafa Ishak of the University of Northern Malaysia said Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur should give more attention to defense cooperation.

"From several aspects of cooperation, defense relations become more complicated because of border trespassing, smuggling, terrorism and forest burnings. Probably, both countries should include non-state actors to play a role in addressing these non-traditional security issues," he said.

According to Yuri, Indonesia-Malaysia relations in trade and investment are continuing to grow, with Indonesian exports to Malaysia jumping by more than 25 percent last year to US$3.5 billion, and its imports rising by 32 percent to $2.4 billion.

Malaysia also is one of Indonesia's biggest foreign investors, with approved investment at more than $2.2 billion in 2006, Yuri said.


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