Jakarta. The government says it refuses to be held to ransom by employers who demand blood money from migrant workers convicted of murder in Saudi Arabia.
Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said he suspected that several parties may have pushed the family of a murder victim to set a high amount of diyat , or blood money, to be paid by a death-row inmate to buy their forgiveness.
“We refuse to allow an individual’s life to become a commodity,” Agung said on Friday as quoted by Tempo.co.
Agung made the remarks amid efforts to prevent Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad from being executed next Thursday.
Agung said the government was continuing to try to meet the 7 million riyal ($1.8 million) diyat demanded by Nura al-Garib’s family.
Satinah was found guilty by a Saudi court of killing Nura during an argument in the woman’s home. Satinah hit Nura in the neck with a rolling pin.
The maid claimed she had been subjected to months of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Nura.
Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care, said that she suspected a “mafia,” involving people from both Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, was playing a role in setting the amount of diyat in cases that involved Indonesian maids.
Anis said that a similar case occurred in 1999 when another maid, Siti Zaenab, was told to pay Rp 90 billion in exchange for her life. She was eventually saved by then-president Abdurrahman Wahid, who made a personal call to King Abdullah.
“Everything points to a diyat mafia who are working on cases that involve our migrant workers. Such a business has been going on for a long time and the government has condoned it. This has to be eradicated,” Anis said on Friday.
The government has so far raised 4 million riyal, of which 3 million riyal was provided by the Foreign Ministry, 500,000 by the Association of Migrant Worker Service Companies (Apjati) and another 500,000 riyal donated by Saudi Arabian citizens.
“Hopefully the amount can be met soon,” Agung said.
He said the diyat had become a commodity that had to be paid by the government. Although he said that blood money was not right, he said the government was still committed to saving its citizens from being executed overseas.
Agung said the government had spoken with Saudi King Abdullah to prevent the execution from taking place, but added that mercy depended on the victim’s family.
Indra Kertati Gunarto, the Central Java chairman of the group Gender Equality and Justice, blamed such cases on the Indonesian government.
“This is not just a matter of one life and Rp 21 billion in diyat. It’s about how the country manages its people. My way of thinking is simple: The country is failing to manage and to protect its people. If the country can take care of its people, such incidents would not be repeated over and over again,” Indra said as quoted by Kompas.com.
Indra said that millions of Indonesian women would not have to seek a job or work in the informal sector in foreign countries if the government was able to provide jobs at home and broaden education access for them.
He said the government would have a problem enforcing an ongoing moratorium on sending migrant workers to several countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, as long as basic problems such as job opportunities and education access remained unresolved.
However, it was urgent that the government drew up clear cooperation agreements with the countries hiring migrant workers, he said, arguing that it could no longer leave the responsibility of managing and sending migrant workers in the hands of the private sector alone.
“This could serve as a chance for the government to review any agreement that doesn’t have clear regulations on how to manage migrant workers and to not send them to those countries,” Indra said.
He added that the government should change the current mechanism on sending workers overseas and to train people before they leave.
“Prepare the system, change the mechanism and prepare the human resources. It shouldn’t be left to the private sector. The government needs to control it,” he said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he would attempt to delay the execution of Satinah but said not all migrant workers jailed abroad were innocent.
“Our people have difficultly differentiating between migrant workers who have problems abroad because of their own mistakes and those who don’t,” he said on Wednesday. “For instance, those who are denied their rights or those who are tortured… we will help them and push for justice — just like in that latest case in Hong Kong. [But many of] those who are sentenced to death are [found guilty] of murder, of murder during a robbery, and of serious drug violations.” The Jakarta Globe