December 30, 2022
JAKARTA – Freshly appointed Malaysian Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir embarked on his first bilateral trip to Jakarta on Thursday, meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno LP Marsudi to prepare for the visit of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim next month.
The preparatory legwork included discussions on economic cooperation, investment and protection of Indonesian migrant workers, as well as negotiations on maritime and land borders, the two ministers announced.
Upon her meeting with the Malaysian FM, Retno said that the two countries would continue to cooperate economically and settle border disputes for the sake of collective prosperity.
Meanwhile, Zambry said that continued cooperation had never been more important post-COVID-19, citing Indonesia as “Malaysia’s everlasting friend”.
“We both agreed that the door for investments is wide open and that we will increase our efforts for investment and connectivity,” said Retno.
Anwar’s visit at the end of January will likely see an advanced discussion on the Indonesia-Malaysia maritime border or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as both ministers implied. Seventeen years after the first negotiations, no conclusions have been reached by the two countries vis-a-vis the borders in the South Malacca Strait and in the Sulawesi Sea.
“We also continued our negotiations on maritime borders, which have been ongoing since 2005. It is of utmost importance that we expedite the negotiations,” said Retno.
“I have given an assurance that Malaysia will stay committed to resolving the maritime and land border matters,” Zambry added.
Particular attention was also placed on the protection of migrant workers in Malaysia, which Retno deemed to be “one of Indonesia’s foreign priorities”.
With 1.6 million Indonesian workers, Malaysia is the biggest host of Indonesia’s diaspora, according to 2021 data from Bank Indonesia.
Yet, both countries have struggled to maintain a safe working environment for the migrants, with cases of human trafficking and abuse frequently reported.
In April, a memorandum of agreement was signed between the two countries to improve the protection of migrants, which included the introduction of the One Channel System (OCS), a streamlined system of recruitment and integration of migrant workers, which it was hoped would safeguard migrant workers.
But a mere two months later, Indonesia found that some Malaysian recruiters were continuing to recruit migrant workers outside of the OCS, triggering the former to temporarily ban all recruitment.
“We have come to the agreement that Indonesian migrant workers have contributed to the development of the Malaysian economy. It is essential that law enforcement be applied to anyone treating the workers criminally or abusively,” Retno asserted.
“There also needs to be a commitment to implement the OCS effectively and expedite the integration process. […] There also needs to be cooperation in stopping human trafficking.”
Anwar, who was a prime minister in waiting for over two decades before his inauguration in late November, has announced that he will be visiting Indonesia as part of his first foreign tours.
His appointment has also been appraised by a considerable proportion of Indonesians who deem him to be a progressive voice of democracy and human rights.