Category: Labour

Indonesia threatens retaliation over EU palm oil ‘intimidation’

Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and European Union to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over an EU legislation that will phase out palm oil-based biofuel manufacturing in the bloc, risking jobs and billions of dollars in Indonesia’s revenue.

Last week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.

“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.

“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.

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Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.

Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.

“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.

Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.

“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.

Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.

On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.

Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.

“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.

“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.

This story was first published on Arab News

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More than 250 Bangladesh migrants found crammed inside Indonesian shops

At least 252 “starving” people who identified themselves as Bangladeshi were found in cramped conditions in two shops in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, an immigration official said Thursday. 

The migrants were “were starving and making a commotion” when found in the provincial capital Medan on Wednesday, North Sumatra immigration chief Icon Siregar said. 

It was not clear if the migrants had come to Indonesia legally or illegally, but told authorities they were looking for work in Malaysia.

He added that it was not clear how long they had been in the buildings.  

“They may have come legally by boat and are waiting to be taken to Malaysia,” he said. “We are still looking for their travel documents.”  

The migrants have been taken to an immigration detention centre in Medan. 

In recent years, boats carrying members of the persecuted Rohingya community in Myanmar have become stranded on Sumatra on their way to a third country.

Since violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2012, tens of thousands of Rohingya have left the country by boat. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the border in the last 18 months to Bangladesh, where they are confined to camps.

Saudi couple meet Indonesian maid they forgave for murder of their child

A Saudi couple from Tabuk have met the Indonesian domestic helper they pardoned after she was sentenced to death for murdering their 11-month-old child in 2009.

Ghalib Nasir Al-Hamri Al-Balawi and his wife arrived in Indonesia on May 3 for a week-long stay, which included a visit to Cirebon in West Java to meet Masamah bint Raswa Sanusi and her family.

“I didn’t seek for anything else by giving her pardon but God’s mercy,” Al-Balawi said through a translator during a press conference at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Jakarta on Monday.

He said that he was very impressed with the hospitality showed by Indonesia during their first visit to the country.

Arief Hidayat, an official from the Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for Protection of Indonesian Citizens Abroad, said that the couple’s visit was facilitated by the Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah in appreciation of the couple’s compassion and willingness to forgive Masamah.

“We took them to Cirebon by train and they were greeted by the acting Cirebon district head upon arrival,” Hidayat said, adding that they also took the couple to the safari park in Cisarua in the mountainous Puncak area, a popular destination for tourists from Middle Eastern countries.

Masamah’s lengthy trial began in 2009 after local authorities accused her of murdering Al-Balawi’s child after they found her fingerprints on the baby’s face.

Masamah has always maintained her innocence and said that she only rubbed the baby’s face after she found it unconscious. She was sentenced to five years in prison in 2014 but the district attorney appealed and she was sentenced to death in 2016.

During her appeal trial in March 2017, Al-Balawi pardoned her and decided not to demand blood money, but Masamah still had to serve the remaining two and a half years of her prison sentence.

She was released from prison in January and stayed at the consulate general’s shelter until she was cleared to leave and return to Indonesia in March.

Al-Balawi and his wife’s visit came after the execution of an Indonesian national who had been working as a driver, Muhammad Zaini Misrin on March 18 after a court has found him guilty of murdering his employer in 2005. The news of Misrin’s execution caused a national outrage.

The Indonesian government said they didn’t received notification prior to his execution and said that the execution was untimely as Misrin was undergoing another legal avenue to have his case reviewed.

Saudi ambassador to Indonesia, Osamah bin Mohammad Al-Shuaibi said the Saudi authorities had done their part to inform the Indonesian embassy about Misrin’s execution including a notification on the day of the execution before it was carried out.

“What we need to do now is inform those who want to visit Saudi Arabia about the law and that they have to follow the rules in Saudi Arabia. It is our duty to explain to them,” Al Shuaibi said.

“We have to respect the laws in our respective countries,” he added.

Hidayat said there are 20 Indonesians on death row in Saudi prisons and Indonesian officials in Saudi Arabia were making sure that their legal rights were met.

“But it would not annul the crimes that they committed,” he added.

This article has been expanded from its original version in Arab News

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