JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD has said there was a strong indication that alleged human trafficking crimes in Batam involved government officials and private parties.
“I have the list of their networks; [we] will investigate into it, whether it’s true,” Mahfud said during a visit to Santa Theresia Shelter in Sekupang, Batam, Riau Islands, on Tuesday (April 4).
The shelter is run by the local Catholic church under Chrisanctus Pascahlis Saturnus, more popularly known as Romo (Father) Paschal, which is active in human trafficking victim protection.
Mahfud said that there was a report from Batam stating that although the government had clear regulations and laws on human trafficking crimes, there were networks in Batam involving administrative offices and private companies.
“[We] will check these data further, whether further steps and actions are needed to be taken,” the senior minister said.
Mahfud underlined that human trafficking was a crime against humanity and needed to be immediately addressed. Those who were involved in sending workers to Malaysia illegally were violating human rights, he said.
Paschal said he had a serious discussion with Mahfud on the issue.
“He promised to follow up [the report] seriously,” said the clergyman who also heads the Pangkalpinang Catholic Diocese’s head of Pastoral Justice, Peace, Migrants and Nomads Commission.
On Jan. 17, Paschal was reported to Riau Islands Police by the province’s State Intelligence Agency (BIN) office deputy chief Col. Bambang Panji Priyanggodo for defamation.
A week prior, Paschal had sent a letter to BIN chief Budi Gunawan to reprimand Bambang for allegedly making an intervention in a human trafficking case in October by asking for the release of suspects.
Five people were arrested in the case, which involved six victims. Three of the victims were sent to Santa Theresia Shelter as the legal process was ongoing.
On March 6 and 7, Paschal answered a summons by the local police to give his clarification. On March 18, Bambang Panji withdrew his report.
The Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Agency (BP2MI) has reported that there are at least two methods used by human trafficking syndicates to smuggle migrant workers from Batam to Malaysia.
The first way is by sending undocumented migrant workers on boats through illegal ports, or what are locally known as “rat” ports.
The second method used by trafficking syndicates to smuggle migrant workers is by cooperating with officials at official ports. Benny Rhamdani said there were clear indications that government officials were involved.
“They must be made common enemies. They deserve to be labelled state criminals because they make money by selling the nation's children. This is a crime that cannot be tolerated,” Benny said, as quoted by Kompas on April 1.
Last year, Indonesian Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah and her Malaysian counterpart inked a highly anticipated worker-recruitment deal, renewing an agreement that had lapsed in 2016 and was not renewed at the time due to differences in migrant labour requirements.
Malaysia relies on millions of foreign workers, who mainly come from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal, to fill factory and plantation jobs shunned by locals.
Indonesia typically sends hundreds of domestic migrant workers there every year, but has slowly changed tack after strengthening its labour protection laws in 2017.