Migrant Forum in Asia
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Indonesian Consulate Should Fulfill Its Responsibility As Protector Of Indonesian Citizens

The purpose of this demonstration is to express deep disappointment and anger at the lack of prompt, sincere and effective action on behalf of both the Indonesian Consulate in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China and the Best Choice Employment Center Co., the agency that employed Suprihatin. We demand concrete actions towards the proper investigation of Suprihatin’s death and prevention of similar incidents in the future.

Background to Suprihatin’s death

On 3 May, 2005, Suprihatin died in Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China as a result of injuries sustained from a 24 April, 2005 plunge from her employer’s 19 th floor flat in Pok Fu Lam. The employer and the police were eager to dismiss Suprihatin’s death as a suicide: the employer claimed that Suprihatin was distraught over being unable to financially support her family living in tsunami-stricken areas of Indonesia.

It has since been revealed, however, that Suprihatin did not have any known family living in any areas of Indonesia affected by the 2004 tsunami; she is from East Java. Furthermore, friends and witnesses have been coming forward with claims that her employer physically abused Suprihatin. People from the 20 th floor, including a Filipinos working in the flat above, reported hearing shouting and scolding often, including shortly before Suprihatin’s fatal 9:00 P.M. fall. Finally, two friends who visited Suprihatin in the hospital before her death reported that she indicated to them on that occasion that she had not jumped, but was instead pushed, from the 19 th floor.

The Indonesian consulate’s failure in prompt, effective action and investigation of Suprihatin’s death

The Indonesian consulate released a statement on 10 May 2005, detailing their involvement in the case, which contains erroneous information designed solely to obscure their lack of concern. IMWU and KOTKIHO would like to highlight how the consulate failed to take prompt and effective action in several instances:

  • The consulate and agency was immediately informed of Suprihatin’s fall on 25 th April, but failed to notify her family in Indonesia that her daughter was in a critical state. Had Suprihatin’s family been given due notice, they could have flown immediately to Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China to be with Suprihatin in her final days. (Point 2 of the statement explains that representatives from the agency and consulate visited Suprihatin at Queen Mary Hospital o-n 25 th May 2005.) Immediately after IMWU gained the contact information of Suprihatin’s family through her friends, we ensured that our partner in Indonesia, the Federation of Indonesian Migrant Workers Organizations (FOBMI) visited the family in East Java on 4 th May. Though this was the day after her death, Suprihatin’s family had yet to be contacted by the consulate; they could not believe what had happened to their daughter. We assert that it is the fundamental right of a migrant’s family to be immediately informed of serious accidents, particularly life-threatening ones, with the Indonesian consulate and government bearing the primary responsibility to provide this information. Recruitment agencies also bear a responsibility in the same.
  • The consulate had initially dismissed the claims of Suprihatin’s friends that she had been abused and mistreated, and they are now denying their initial dismissal. I n point 6 of their statement, the consulate notes it received two Indonesian migrant workers at the consulate to discuss their concerns over Suprihatin’s death, and expressed their gratitude towards the migrants for having the courage to come forward. However, based on our interview with one of these migrants, Sri, in reality, the migrants were rudely dismissed on 29 th April 2005 by Indonesian Consular staff. According to Sri, the consulate official had refused to listen to Tuti and Sri’s concerns and told them not to “make a rumor out of nothing. Don’t believe lies told to you by Filipino workers. They are just jealous that Indonesians are taking their jobs.”
  • The consulate did not immediately appeal to the police for an inquiry into Suprihatin’s death. When we, other migrant support groups and some of Suprihatin’s friends and neighbors questioned the accuracy of the police’s initial conclusion that Suprihatin had committed suicide, the police stated that the case might be closed based on the fact that the consulate had not made an appeal to the police. Only on the 9 th May, following migrant demonstrations on 8 th May, did Suprihatin’s body undergo a second autopsy to continue the investigation. In light of the above-mentioned concerns expressed by Suprihatin’s friends and neighbors, we ask why the consulate waited so long to make an appeal to the police to continue investigation?

Failure of Best Choice Employment Agency to respond justly to Suprihatin’s situation of abuse

Suprihatin’s friends came to know that she had reported her abuse several months ago to her agency, the Best Choice Employment Agency, who took no action. Suprihatin’s friend told us that the agency had responded to Suprihatin’s complaints by telling her to, “be strong, be patient, you need to accept the reality.” This inappropriate advice did nothing to make this young woman, who was charged to their care, aware of her options on how she could resolve or escape her abusive situation. Physical abuse is a criminal offence and a violation of Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China labor laws. We assert that by giving Suprihatin the advice to ignore her physical abuse, the Best Choice Recruitment Agency was seriously irresponsible: their action is equivalent to abetting in the employer’s commission of a criminal offence.

We would like to call on the police to investigate the Best Choice Recruitment Agency in how they responded to this case and possibly to other cases. The police should ensure that this is not a standard advice given out by the agency to cases of abuse.

IMWU and KOTKIHO’s Actions

Currently, the Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union (IMWU) and the Hong Kong Coalition of Indonesian Migrant Workers Organizations (KOTHIKO) are collaborating with other migrant support groups in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China and Indonesia to address the issues rose by Suprihatin’s death in many ways:

  • A vigil at Baguio Villas, the scene of Suprihatin’s fatal fall, was held on 8 May, 2005, to both recognize the solemnity of the scene and to encourage witnesses in the building to come forward. The following day, 9 May 2005, Suprihatin’s body was returned from the mortuary to the police for a second autopsy.
  • Working with potential witnesses to encourage them to speak out.
  • Working with police to assist in a prompt and exhaustive investigation of this tragedy.
  • Providing counseling to witnesses and friends of the victims, who are obviously distraught by the unexpected loss
  • Coordinating with Suprihatin’s family in Indonesia through our local partner, Federation of Indonesian Migrant Workers Organizations (FOBMI), to ensure their representation in the investigation.
  • Monitoring the police investigation.
  • Working with NGOs in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, Indonesia and the region to establish guidelines on how NGOs, governments and recruitment agencies should more effectively respond to cases of suspected maltreatment and mysterious deaths.

IMWU’s and KOTKIHO’s Calls

The demonstration this Sunday, 15 th May 2005, is to express outrage at the inaction and self-serving quiescence of the Indonesian Consulate in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China and the agency, which employed Suprihatin. The purpose of a consulate is to protect and aid its nationals in a foreign setting. Many actions taken by the Indonesian consulate in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China have been to save themselves trouble and to avoid facing their responsibilities as protectors of Indonesians in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China.

As protector of Indonesian citizens in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, we make the following demands to the Indonesian consulate in order to amend the wrongful death of Suprihatin:

  • Make a formal apology to Suprihatin and her family for not taking prompt and effective action following her death;
  • Make every effort to investigate the case effectively and thoroughly, and assist and monitor the efforts of the Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China Police;
  • Establish protocol on how to respond to possible future cases of abuse and death; and
  • Recognize the crucial role of migrant workers’ unions and migrant support groups in investigating cases of death and abuse, and consult and work with these organizations in this and future possible cases.

As enterprises who are paid agency fees of up to HKD21.000, we call on recruitment agencies, such as the Best Choice Employment Agency, to provide proper service to its migrant clients by:

  • Reporting cases of abuse to the relevant authorities and do their utmost to ensure that workers are placed in fair working environments; and
  • Pursuing active, working partnerships with the consulate, the Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China Police and Labor Department, NGOs and migrant support groups, and communicate with them in any and all cases of abuse or death.

We hope that by sincerely and effectively taking such actions in this and future possible cases, the Indonesian consulate would be able to better fulfill its role as a genuine protector of Indonesian citizens. Along with the help of agencies and other appropriate governmental and non-governmental agencies and migrants’ unions and organizations, we hope that future tragedies will be prevented and that Indonesian migrants can surely enjoy just and fair working conditions.

Statement Endorsed by:

  • Asian Migrant Center, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China
  • Coalition for Migrant Rights, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China
  • Migrant Forum in Asia, Philippines
  • The Federation of Indonesian Migrant Workers Organization (FOBMI), Indonesia

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MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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