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Tensions rise over ad that reads "Indonesian maids now on sale!!"

Indonesia had previously banned women from travelling to Malaysia to work as maids due to poor pay and abuse.

Indonesian's protesting against the abuse of Indonesian Maids in Malaysia in 2007 (file photo).
Indonesian's protesting against the abuse of Indonesian Maids in Malaysia in 2007 (file photo).
Image: Ed Wray/AP/Press Association Images

AN ADVERTISEMENT IN Malaysia for cut-price Indonesian maids has gone viral online in Indonesia and sparked new outrage over an issue that has long divided the two countries.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has phoned his Malaysian counterpart to complain and web users have vented their anger over the flyers tacked to trees in Kuala Lumpur which read “Indonesian maids now on sale!!”

“Now your housework and cooking come easy. You can rest and relax. Deposit only 3,500 ringgit (€885)” reads the ad, which was posted online at the weekend by an Indonesian campaigner for migrant workers’ rights.

“Let’s boycott travelling to Malaysia, they have become even more disrespectful,” said Arifin Sutrisno on Twitter.

Labour ministry spokeswoman Dita Indah Sari told AFP: “Saying Indonesian workers are on sale is likening a human being to a commodity. This is unacceptable.”

Relations have been strained by a series of cases of abuse of Indonesian women working as domestic helpers in Malaysia. Maids in recent years have been the victims of attacks with a hammer, scissors and a hot iron.

The abuse prompted Jakarta to impose a ban in June 2009 on new maids being sent to Malaysia. Indonesia announced last December the ban was being lifted after both countries agreed on a pay rise and measures to curb abuse.

However the furious reaction in Indonesia to the flyers and the government’s swift response showed that the issue remains deeply sensitive.

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As well as condemnation from Natalegawa, Indonesia’s ambassador in Malaysia met a foreign ministry official to ask who was responsible for the advert.

Malaysian Labour Minister S. Subramaniam condemned the flyers. “We are going all out to trace the group responsible for the leaflets,” he told AFP.

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