Sunday 5 September 2010

In the midst of flag-burning and chest-thumping, a sane socialist stand..

(I am not affiliated with either of these parties, but am sharing this joint statement here because it has not yet been put on PSM's website.)


We, the undersigned organizations, are in view with deep concerns over the recent development of Indonesian-Malaysian relations in related to ultra-nationalist sentiment which emerged following the incidents happened at the waters near Bintan Island on 13 August 2010. During the incidents, 3 patrolling officers from Indonesian Maritime and Fisheries Department were arrested by Malaysian Marine Police after 7 Malaysian fisherfolks arrested by Indonesian authority on the same day.

The upsurge of anti-Malaysia sentiment among Indonesians or the other way round is not related to the interests of both ordinary people in Indonesia and Malaysia. The people in both countries are now facing the same neo-liberal attacks carried out by the ruling regime of both nations.

At the moment in Malaysia, the richest 10% controlled 38.4% of economic wealth, while 10% of the poorest only get 1.7%. Apart from that, a recent study shows that 34% of workers in Malaysia or around 1.3 millions receive monthly wage of RM 720 which below the poverty line. Meanwhile in Indonesia, total population live in poverty has reached 100 millions.  There is a fact that the either in Malaysia or Indonesia, there are massive implementations of neoliberal policies that worsened the situation. Those policies included cutting subsidies, privatization, cheap labour and market liberalization.

The stirring up of ultra-nationalist sentiment has served nothing but to divert people’s attention from crucial issues like neo-liberal attacks on people’s welfare, and to strengthen the ruling regime in order to protect the interests of capital. In the dispute of Ambalat sea block, rested the interests of capital. Ambalat is a water area which has abundance of petroleum (estimated up to 1 billion barrels of crude oil), and becoming a hotspot for international petroleum industries. Indonesia has signed agreements with Emi Ambalat Ltd. (Italy) and Unocal Indonesia Ventures Ltd (US), while Malaysia has signed concession with Royal Dutch Shell and Petronas, for petroleum exploration at the region.

While the cultural claims made by Malaysia have related to the interests of tourism industries in Malaysia. Tourism is an important sector in Malaysia to earn foreign currency besides manufacturing. For example, Malaysia receipted RM 17.4 billion from 10.22 million tourists in 2000, and the following years increased significantly. Last year, Malaysia receipted RM 53.4 billion (USD 17.1 billion) from tourism industry. Tourism sector also contributed significantly in providing work opportunities. Service sector accounted for 51% of total workforce in Malaysia. About 5.4 millions out of 10.73 million workforce directly or indirectly employed in tourism sector, e.g. restaurants, travel agencies, airlines, transportations etc. By providing job opportunities, tourism industry plays a significant role in keeping unemployment rate low at about 3.5%.

Although there are much rhetoric about protection for Indonesian migrant workers, Indonesian government has in fact legalised outsourcing of Indonesian migrant workers thru PJTKI. Indonesian government also never provide proper protection for Indonesian migrant workers. The Indonesian government prefer to protect Malaysian capital owner, as the fifth largest investor in Indonesia. Meanwhile, Malaysia government uses those migrant workers to develop its economy and keep workers’ wage in Malaysia at low level.

We condemn those ultra-nationalist elements who tried to split the working people and the poor by exploiting issues on border dispute which only served to protect the interests of ruling class. All solution for the dispute must involve the people from both countries.

At the moment, the urgent need for working class and the poor in Indonesia and Malaysia, is to build solidarity among each other in order to avoid falling into ultra-nationalist sentiment. People’s movements in Indonesia and Malaysia need to be consolidated for building genuine regional cooperation and friendly bilateral relationships between Indonesia and Malaysia, based on solidarity trade and sustainable exchanges for the benefit of all working people, and NOT on the basis of predatory free trade and profit-driven investment.


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