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Indon workers claim replaced by Filipino illegals
Published on: Saturday, July 01, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sabah has taken up the case of 11 Indonesian plantation workers who were dismissed by their employer without any reason.

MTUC Sabah Secretary Catherine Jikunan said she was notified about the case by her Indonesian counterpart Kornelis Wiriyawan Gatu of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI) on Thursday.

"This is a classic case of power abuse by employers. These people were brought in legally and if their services are no longer wanted, they should be notified at least three months beforehand, not the night before they were expected to leave," she said.

Jikunan said employers also have the responsibility to arrange for the workers' passage home.

She had the impression that the estate company only cared about maximising their profits with no concern of the welfare of the people who helped them accumulate their wealth.

MTUC Sabah office, she said, had already contacted the Labour Department and she had completed a full report to be submitted to the department soon.

She also tried to contact the Indonesian Consulate General Office but it was closed for the long Raya holiday and will only reopen on Monday.

"However, we have managed to set a meeting with the Consul General at the office next week," she said.

Jikunan said she had received several similar cases in the past and worried the trend will continue if something is not done against erring employers.

"I was told that the company is now hiring illegal immigrants from the Philippines to replace the documented Indonesian workers. How did they manage to bring in so many illegal immigrants from the Philippines into the interior of Sandakan right under the noses of Esscom?" she asked.

She said irresponsible employers especially in the agriculture sector are to be blamed for the increase in illegal immigrants in the State because they brought in foreigners into the country then discard them when they are no longer needed.

"These people came here through these agents, and once here, and left behind, they did not know where to go, what to do... not all estates will want to hire them.

"So they were left here in Sabah, their passports expired, playing hide and seek with the authority.

Many were forced to settle here against their will because money was never enough to go back to their own countries," she said.


All the 11 workers have expressed their desire to go back to Indonesia as soon as possible.

The Indonesian mandor (foreman) and his 10 workers said they were left languishing under a friend's house for over a month, surviving only on bananas and tapioca, after the oil palm company they were working for kicked them out and replaced them with Filipino illegal immigrants.

Hendrikus Davios, 46, had worked for the estate in Sungai Kerapu, Kinabatangan since July 2008 before he was joined by the 10 workers, which included his wife and daughter.

The group enjoyed a rather peaceful existence before the newly appointed estate manager with the backing of three men in uniform believed to be policemen, aggressively told Hendrikus his time at the estate is over and told him to leave immediately.

"We had no problem during our employment at the estate. All of us were brought in legally and we all own valid passports. But suddenly this thing happened. I tried asking him why we were treated that way but the estate manager did not answer me," he said.

Hendrikus recalled the horror of the night of May 17 when one of the uniformed men went to Hendrikus' house and in front of the other 10, slapped Hendrikus once, before he was brought to the estate's office.

He complied with their demand but before entering the office, the man in uniform once again slapped Hendrikus before pointing a gun to Hendrikus' head while shouting at him 'mahu mati kah atau mahu hidup?' (do you want to die or live?) five times, each time asking Hendrikus to speak louder.

"I was so scared, I cried. I shouted back 'mahu hidup' (I want to live), louder every time but my head was filled with questions, why are they doing this to us. I tried to recall any incident that might have provoked the estate manager but there was nothing," he said.

The estate manager even taunted him and the workers, challenging them to call the Immigration Department and the Indonesian Consulate General Office.

Fearing for his life and that of his workers who were all there to witness the horrific event, Hendrikus agreed to leave the estate but pleaded to be allowed to stay one more night because it was difficult to find transportation at such late hour.

The next day, May 18, a company truck carried all 11 of them out of the estate up until Melangking Gate.

Due to the very short notice, they only managed to bring their clothes, leaving behind what little earthly possession they have accumulated over the years at the estate quarters.

"For 12 hours, I struggled to find some form of transportation for our group until around 10pm when a friend in Sandakan finally came to pick us up. We are thankful to this friend who has sheltered us although he and his family are also struggling financially.


"We do not have money because the company failed to pay us our monthly salary, which was due on May 15.

So, we had to rely on whatever the earth gave us in order to survive these past one month.

We had to sleep on the ground because we did not have the chance to bring our mattresses," he said.

He and the others maintained that the owner of the estate may have no idea of what went on that night and believed it was all the estate manager's idea, including systematically replacing legal Indonesian workers with undocumented Filipino workers.

Currently, he said the estate is swarmed with Filipino workers whose documents were questionable.

Desperate to end their predicament, Hendrikus reached out to the Indonesian Consulate Office in Kota Kinabalu on May 19 and managed to get a hold of an officer, Pak Hasbullah on May 23 who promised to contact the company.

However, on May 26, Hasbullah told Hendrikus he was busy and told him the case had been transferred to another officer, Pak Arnanto.

Since then, Hendrikus and his workers did not hear from the Consulate office again.

"Eventually, we decided to contact the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI) and they sent their officer Kornelis Wiriyawan Gatu who reached Sandakan on June 26," he said.

Kornelis brought the group, which included two women, to Kota Kinabalu on June 27 and they have been staying temporarily in a rented house in Inanam, courtesy of Kornelis' contact.

"When I saw their living condition in Sandakan, I was so sad and I asked myself, what kind of person would discard another human being like this when they are no longer wanted? These people must get their justice," he said.

For a start, Kornelis held a meeting with Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sabah on Thursday to give them a heads-up on the issue and to get their help in forwarding the case to the relevant authority.

He said KSPI are demanding the estate company to pay the workers their one month salary which is due to them, to pay for their passage home and their severance pay according to the length of their services.


Furthermore, Kornelis also said the uniformed man who assaulted Hendrikus must be brought to justice because not only did he hurt Hendrikus, he also threatened to kill the Indonesian by pointing a gun, regardless if it was loaded or not, at Hendrikus.

"For now, they have no other choice but to stay here. They don't have money but I will ask the Consulate General Office to help them by giving them food so they can be more comfortable here and no longer need to forage the land to survive," he said.

Kornelis and a representative of MTUC Sabah as well as Hendrikus will hold a meeting with the Indonesia Consul General to Kota Kinabalu next week. - Tracy Patrick

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