Prabowo Intercedes in Malaysia Maid Death-Row Case

An Indonesian migrant worker waits for officers after an immigration raid outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto  (AFP Photo/Mohd Rasfan)

An Indonesian migrant worker waits for officers after an immigration raid outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto announced plans to intervene on the death-row case of an Indonesian maid and alleged trafficking victim who killed her employer. (AFP Photo/Mohd Rasfan)

Updated at 5 p.m., on Sept. 26, 2013.

The House of Representatives is pushing the Malaysian government to pardon Wilfrida Soik, an Indonesian migrant worker who is facing a possible death sentence in Malaysia for allegedly killing her employer.

“To get a pardon we need to work with the Malaysian government,” said Poempida Hidayatulloh, a member of House Commission IX, which oversees manpower affairs.

The Golkar Party legislator said 17-year-old Wilfrida, who has been working since she was 12, had clearly been a victim of human trafficking and the Malaysian government should consider humanitarian factors such as its commitment to fight human trafficking.

Poempida emphasized that not granting Wilfrida clemency would go against the government’s efforts to deport illegal workers and would put the Malaysian government’s commitment in fighting against human trafficking into question.

“If Wilfrida’s case continues with allegations of murder, then her employer and the agent who had recruited Wilfrida would also have to be held accountable for human trafficking,” he said.

Additionally, the legislator said the Indonesian government would have to take strict diplomacy action should the Malaysian government insist on ignoring the many questions surrounding the case.

Wilfrida was arrested in Johor, Malaysia, on Dec. 18, 2010.

She had been taken to Malaysia from Belu, East Nusa Tenggara, by an agency at a time when Indonesia had issued a suspension on the placement of housemaids in the country.

While legislators push for the government to take a decisive stance on the matter, presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto, from the Great Indonesia Movement party (Gerindra) seems to be one step ahead.

The former army general will be assisting Wilfrida throughout her upcoming hearing, an official from the party confirmed in a press release on Monday.

“Prabowo will do his best to free Wilfrida from the death sentence. Aside from providing a good lawyer, he will also assist her at the hearing on September 30,” Gerindra deputy secretary general Sudaryono said on Monday.

Prabowo left for Malaysia on Friday after receiving news Wilfrida had not received proper legal aid for the three years she had been detained.

Sudaryono said the Malaysian government had been cooperative in efforts to save Wilfrida, allowing Prabowo to meet her on Saturday with the assistance of Malaysian legal expert Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Sudaryono said Wilfrida had been surprised by Prabowo’s visit, especially considering she had never received visits from any Indonesian officials or embassy staff.

“According to Prabowo, Wilfrida’s hands were very cold when they shook hands. The girl did not expect and never dreamed of being visited by a political figure. She was also very happy, because she sees hope for her future. Prabowo also motivated Wilfrida not to give up,” he said.

Sudaryono said Prabowo’s meeting with Wilfrida had lasted for two hours, with the accused explaining her side of the story to the Gerindra leader.

Prabowo was hopeful Wilfrida will be free from her charges, he added.

Prabowo Subianto flew to Malaysia to meet with the jailed Indonesian maid. (Reuters)

Prabowo Subianto flew to Malaysia to meet with the jailed Indonesian maid. (Reuters)

Sudaryono also noted Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee had said there was still time to save the underage girl.

Meanwhile, Poempida on Tuesday expressed appreciation towards Prabowo’s gesture.

“This is the kind of action that shows a leader’s care and concern to the oppressed, wherever they are,” he said on Tuesday, as quoted by Liputan6.com.

He added that Prabowo’s action was a remarkable gesture that should serve as a slap in the face to the Indonesian government who had apparently done so little since Wilfrida had been locked up.

Poempida went on to say that if more Indonesian leaders took a proactive role in addressing issues surrounding migrant workers, problems could be solved quicker.

“In this case, special diplomacy is needed in finding the needed solution. Political pressure can also be applied on an international level, depending on the situation and our relationship with that country,” Poempida said.

Prabowo’s network in Malaysia may be of great help in finalizing Wilfrida’s case, he said. “I hope to receive good news in the development of Wilfrida’s case.”

Meanwhile, Wilfrida is not the only Indonesian migrant worker on death row in a foreign country.

In July, the Indonesian Migrant Worker Placement and Protection Agency (BNP2TKI) looked into the case of Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad an Indonesian maid who had been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for killing her employer.

The Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh had been fighting for Satina’s pardon since 2007 and had approached the victim’s family to negotiate a monetary compensation.

The family reportedly requested $2.67 million in 2011, but later on agreed on $1.87 million.

According to the NGO Migrant Care, 420 Indonesians were on death row worldwide, including 45 in Saudi Arabia, while data from the Foreign Affairs Ministry showed 185 Indonesian workers had been sentenced to death in Malaysia.

Earlier in 2011, an Indonesian maid named Ruyati was beheaded for killing her employer with a meat cleaver, prompting the Foreign Affairs Ministry to file a complaint to the Saudi government saying the Indonesian government had not been notified about the execution.

The Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration subsequently issued a two-year moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia in 2011.

Last week, Migrant Care, Change.org and several lawmakers issued a petition that called on the Malaysian court to revoke Wilfrida’s death sentence — the petition had collected 9,258 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayaha said the support for Wilfrida’s freedom would be e-mailed directly to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Malaysian Supreme Court.

Anis said she had high hopes that Indonesia and Malaysia would be able to achieve solidarity on justice and humanitarian issues.

Rieke Diah Pitaloka, a member of House Commission IX, said Wilfrida’s case should be able to open the door for investigations into Indonesia’s human trafficking cases.

“This case can be our pathway to solving human trafficking. Wilfrida had been sent to Malaysia when Indonesia had banned such a move,” the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker said during the launch of the petition.

Rieke further called on the president to lobby the Malaysian government.

“I call for a more intensive political lobbying between the Indonesian government and the Malaysian government. In the last year of SBY’s time in office, he should be able to do this,” she said.

Correction. Due to an editing error, this article originally said that Wilfrida Soik had been sentenced to death. Wilfrida Soik has not been sentenced to death — her hearing falls on Sept. 30.

  • human2

    Is it just me or does this seem hypocritical? Indonesia sentences people to death for drugs and yet pleads for the life of murderers? Can’t have your cake and eat it too. Stop the death penalty here then u can ask for maids to be spared the same fate that you give people every year….

    • mrlogic

      That echoes my sentiments exactly. But people here seem to have no concept of hypocrisy.

  • Wong Edan

    This has nothing to do with the fate of this woman, yet alone the person she killed. It is all about a gutless opportunist taking advantage of the Indonesian jealousy of Malaysia to score political points. Imagine how different things would be if a Malaysian citizen had gone to Indonesia and killed an Indonesian. Prabowo and his fellow thugs would be baying for revenge…

  • Muffinman

    What a mess. Wilfrida, sent abroad at the age of 12, is clearly one in thousands of victims to human trafficking and exploitation of basic human rights. The treatment of a majority of maids working abroad in Malaysia and a host of Arab countries is at best, borderline modern day slavery.
    It’s good to see organizations such as Migrant Care and Change Org making real effort to do something , where governments seem to show so little concern. Reckon I’ll sign that petition.

    • Kamarul Azhar

      Indonesian media only reported about the miseries faced by Indonesian foreign workers in a foreign country, when there is too little or none at all stories depicting the vast opportunity opened for them to change their lives in these countries. Too little or none at all stories showing how they build their families here, how they received kind, family-like treatment by fellow Malaysians, and how they can actually have hope for their children to lead a better life and prosper. There are also too little or none at all stories about how some of the Indonesian migrant workers committed heinous crime and untold hurt towards Malaysian such as snatch theft, robbery, murder, drug trafficking, gangsterism, rape, stealing away another man’s wife or daughters etc2…

  • PakLe

    “especially considering she had never received visits from any Indonesian officials or embassy staff” …. so i wonder what it was that made an unpopular presidential hopeful help her out? (rhetorical question, before you reply). I bet he had plenty of press people there with him.

  • Kamarul Azhar

    While it is unfortunate of what is happening with Wilfrida in Malaysia, it is certainly not fair for her to be spared from execution, when she has taken the life of another person. When a lot is written about Wilfrida’s (or was it Prabowo, or the Indonesian government’s) allegation that she is a victim of human trafficking, there is none here written about her employer. Who is he/she? What has the employer done to Wilfrida that pushes her to slain her employer? JG should at least write a line or two why, in the first place, Wilfrida committed the heinous act, when there’s only one or two line stating that “clearly she is a victim of human trafficking”.

    • Hypocrite Buster

      Totally agree – in other words for JG to give all sides of the story, which needs investigative reporting. We have all noticed that investigative journalism is not JG’s forte – inadequate budget (to cover journalists additional time often overseas), journalists’ limited capacity, paper’s cheapest-cost policy?

  • Euan Mie

    If there’s a principle that Prabowo has stood by his entire professional career, it’s unjust executions.

  • lanun

    Indonesia must ndintain pressure on this pretender regime in which their legal system is really right to the bottom of the pile. Called donkey court.

    She’s been denied legal reps this far while court is n will never prosecute those in BN government involve in human trafickkings. How could she get the permit to work while there was moratorium in place? Prabowo must force this regime.

    • Kamarul Azhar

      Dude, read carefully.

      “Sudaryono said Wilfrida had been surprised by Prabowo’s visit,
      especially considering she had never received visits from any Indonesian
      officials or embassy staff.”

      She wasn’t DENIED legal reps, but no one from the Indonesian embassy seems to care.

  • Voxclara

    Amazing how years of ill gotten gain during Soeharto is showing so clearly on Prabowo’s countenance, he really has ballooned out of proportion… Much like his hypocritical attempt at helping the maid.

  • DanielKaimana

    You got it… That’s the man of fuhrer wannabe

  • Kamarul Azhar

    Agreed. And I am not trying to put the blame on anyone on this issue, I was just commenting how JG came up with this article, mentioning that Wilfrida is a victim of human trafficking, while did not even disclose what triggered her to murder her employer. I think readers would want to know what justification that Wilfrida has to commit murder against the person who gave her employment. And often, cases like this are not simple, people don’t simply take the life of another person just like that. And it is imperative for a responsible journalist to at least put a line or two to what really transpired.

  • Kamarul Azhar

    What??? What Bumiputras have anything to do with this case?

  • mrlogic

    What is he going to say when the Malaysian authorities say: “Well you have the death penalty in Indonesia, aren’t you being hypocritical.”