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Reuters: M'sia struggles against immigrant tide
By Marty Logan

7/6/2001 6:40 pm Thu

[Bilangan pendatang asing tidak dapat dianggarkan dengan tepat tetapi terdapat kemungkinan mereka sudah mencecah angka 2 juta - ini lebih ramai dari bilangan kaum minoriti India di negara ini. Masalah ini tidak akan selesai selagi dalang dibiarkan bermaharaja lela sesuka hati.

Tidak mungkin mereka berjaya masuk ke negara ini jika tidak ada lubang dan sesuatu yang mewah menanti. Siapakah yang untung dengan kedatangan mereka ini jika tidak pihak yang menguruskan mereka selama ini. Jika polis di atas sanggup berkonspirasi politik, polis di bawah pun bukannya boleh dipercayai lagi. Di sini wang sudah menjadi raja - undang-undang sudah melayang entah kemana. Bayangkan jika seorang pendatang membayar wang bawah meja sebanyak RM100 ringgit, jika 2 juta itu sudah memberi hasil RM 200 juta begitu sahaja.... yang tentunya lebih baik dari gaji polis yang tidak berbaloi dengan penatnya bekerja. - Editor] pi_news_id=707662&pi_ctry=my&pi_lang=en

Malaysia struggles against immigrant tide

By Marty Logan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Just before 2 a.m., a Malaysian police speedboat douses its lights and heads out from the cover of a mangrove swamp towards the open sea.

The police have been tipped off that another boatload of refugees fleeing politically volatile, impoverished neighbour Indonesia is on its way across the Strait of Malacca.

Soon after the patrol reaches international waters, clouds black out the stars and the rain starts. The operation is called off -- and another group of Indonesians make their way to what they hope will be their promised land.

Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore are battling to keep out Indonesians so desperate that some will sell their land for a chance to work at the menial jobs locals now refuse -- cleaning the condominiums and building the skyscrapers that are symbols of the countries' prosperity.

In mid-May, a Malaysian government official said 5,000 Indonesians were gathered on Batam Island, 45 minutes away by speedboat, waiting for a chance to sneak in.

In one patrol in May, the police caught 82 migrants crammed into the deep hull of a slow wooden boat. According to the Indonesian embassy, Malaysia arrested 6,000 illegal Indonesians in May.


No one knows how many Indonesians there are in Malaysia, but Kuala Lumpur deported nearly 90,000 last year.

Those captured are held in nine detention camps across the country before being shipped home. But some 1,000 die each year making the crossing, according to estimates in the early 1990s.

Death or deportation is no deterrent for many and the wealth gap makes it easy to understand.

Tiny Singapore is a rich country by any standards and Malaysia has succeeded in bringing down poverty levels among its 23 million people to less than seven percent from around 50 percent in the early 1970s.

Nearly a quarter of Indonesia's 200 million people are living in poverty, and millions more are little better off.

Most official estimates put the number of Indonesians in Malaysia at close to one million, but the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur recently said it could be as high as two million.

That would mean Indonesians now outnumber Malaysia's official third largest ethnic group -- the 1.6 million Indians counted in the 2000 census.


Sharing ethnic roots, religion and a similar language with the majority Malays, Indonesians trade on hard work, family ties and a fairly sympathetic government to make new lives here.

Many arrived at the start of Malaysia's development drive in the early 1980s.

But their growing numbers worry ordinary Malaysians, who blame Indonesians for much of the country's petty crime.

For their part, many Indonesians resent the superior attitudes of some of their hosts.

"Sometimes Malay passengers ask me in a cynical tone how Indonesians can be allowed to drive a taxi here. I get very annoyed," said a taxi driver originally from West Sumatra.

"I don't understand why they look down on Indonesians."

According to the Jakarta Post newspaper, Indonesian embassy officials reported 35 of their nationals were arrested for murder last year.

Kuala Lumpur's gritty Chow Kit district was once known as 'mini-Jakarta'. Today the alleys where traders sell pirated VCDs are also home to Africans and other foreigners.

But in the street markets on the west side of the main road, Indonesians still dominate.

Indonesian labourers in jeans and T-shirts loaf around outside betting shops, in a haze of smoke from their trademark aromatic clove cigarettes, hoping for a winning ticket.


Two police officers walking the beat say most Indonesians are hard workers who beat the system by entering Malaysia on tourist passes, get jobs, then return monthly to update the pass, carrying valuable Malaysian ringgit to their waiting families.

"Ten years ago they would come here and if one was from Madura and the other was Dayak they would automatically fight. Now they respect the peace in Malaysia," says Yasin, one of the officers.

A government official says it is Malaysian businessmen who hire Indonesians illegally who cause trouble.

Indonesians "are people who make positive contributions to Malaysia. We don't have a problem with this group," said Aseh Che Mat, secretary-general of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"What we don't want is a situation where they are being exploited," Aseh told Reuters in an interview.

But while officials appear understanding, residents complain of rising crime and Indonesians moving into their areas.

"If there is no immediate action, the number can double in a few months," says Saharuddin Awang Yahya, head of a residents' group which is campaigning against a squatter area mushrooming on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

With no official status, squatters there still managed to build 1,000 homes and access water and electricity.

It could be a microcosm of a national anxiety.

The upheavals in Malaysia's seething neighbour is one of Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar greatest external worries.

"Law and order problems, economic or political instability, we have to watch very closely because the spillover to us is real," Syed Hamid told Reuters.