Erwiana Sulistyaningsih

Indonesia to look into recruitment agencies in light of Erwiana case

Group which recruited Erwiana may lose licence as consulate moves to reassure domestic helpers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 3:45am

Indonesia's top diplomatic representative in Hong Kong said the consulate is exploring ways to better protect the safety of domestic workers in the city, and is reviewing whether recruitment agencies here have complied with its regulations.

The country's consul general in Hong Kong, Chalief Akbar, told the Post yesterday that the consulate already has many policies in place to ensure the safety of the 150,000 Indonesian domestic workers in the city .

"We have regular meetings with the Hong Kong employment agencies," Akbar said.

"The number of agencies registered with the consulate is 237. We will review the agencies [to see] whether they comply with the regulations and the criteria set out by the consulate."

On top of the 237 licensed agencies, hundreds of others have been bringing in Indonesian workers without approval from the consulate, according to Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, vice-chairwoman of the General Chamber of Manpower Agencies.

The consulate will look into the claim, Akbar said.

Liu said the consulate requires agencies to provide a boarding house for workers seeking refuge from employer abuse.

Akbar said he was very concerned about the alleged abuse of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23. The senior diplomat said he believed in Hong Kong's rule of law and that any culprit would be brought to justice.

The 44-year-old woman who allegedly tortured Erwiana has been blacklisted by the consulate, meaning she will no longer be able to hire any Indonesian domestic workers. The consulate may also revoke the licence of Erwiana's recruitment agency, Chan's Asia Recruitment Centre, after further investigation into its role in the scandal.

If Erwiana wants to come to Hong Kong to help with the local authorities' investigation, the consulate will pay for her flights, accommodation and any legal fees.

Akbar said abuse of domestic workers in Hong Kong was rare.

"So far we only have one big case before [Erwiana's] … the case of Kartika," he added.

Kartika Puspitasari endured two years of torture at the hands of her former bosses, including being tied to a chair and hit with a bicycle chain, which broke two of her front teeth.

Her employers were convicted of assault last September and jailed.

Akbar denied that Erwiana's case had harmed relations between Hong Kong and Indonesia, largely because of the speedy reaction of police here to the alleged crime.

"I don't see any problem because the relationship between Indonesia and Hong Kong is very strong," he said.

More than 900 Indonesian maids sought help from the consulate last year over labour disputes, mostly related to underpayment and denial of holidays.