Asean Summit, Malaysia on Nov 21, 1015

Asean Summit, Malaysia  on Nov 21, 1015
Asean Establishes Landmark Economic and Security Bloc
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) - Text version)

“….. Here is the prediction: China will turn North Korea loose soon. The alliance will dissolve, or become stale. There will be political upheaval in China. Not a coup and not a revolution. Within the inner circles of that which you call Chinese politics, there will be a re-evaluation of goals and monetary policy. Eventually, you will see a break with North Korea, allowing still another dictator to fall and unification to occur with the south. ….”

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk
North Korean defector and activist Hyeonseo Lee, who lives in South Korea, poses as she presents her book 'The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story' in Beijing on March 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

US under fire in global press freedom report

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

ASEAN army chiefs attend informal meeting in Jakarta

Antara News, Thu, March 31 2011

Related News

Jakarta, March 31 (ANTARA) - A number of ASEAN army chiefs attended an informal meeting at the Merdeka Palace here on Thursday.

But Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said that nothing had been discussed with regard to armed operations at the meeting.

"They discussed nothing associated with armed operations because it is an informal meeting," defense minister Purnomo said before attending the gathering.

Purnomo said the informal meeting may clarify Indonesia`s commitment to not form a military pact in the Asean region, because according to him, military cooperation was not only in the form of war.

"The cooperation may be in military operations but other than war," Purnomo said.

He added that the military operation other than in war could be among others in disaster management, peace missions, terror management, and maritime territorial security.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to attend the Asean Chiefs of Defense Forces informal meeting which is to be marked with welcome speeches from National Defense Forces (TNI) Chief Admiral Agus Suhartono and Asean Chief of Defense Forces, Royal Thai Armed Forces General Songkitti Jaggabatara.

Editor: Aditia Maruli

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death

CNN News, By Farid Ahmed and Moni Basu, CNN, March 29, 2011

  • Hena Akhter, in her last words to her mother, said she was innocent
  • At first, an autopsy said she committed suicide
  • But later, the ugly details of her case surfaced
  • Her family says she was punished twice -- raped and then lashed

Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.

Darbesh Khan and his wife, Aklima Begum, had to
watch their youngest daughter being whipped until
she dropped.
Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man.

The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.

Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Hena's family insisted her body be exhumed. They wanted the world to know what really happened to their daughter.

Sharia: illegal but still practiced

Hena's family hailed from rural Shariatpur, crisscrossed by murky rivers that lend waters to rice paddies and lush vegetable fields.

Hena was the youngest of five children born to Darbesh Khan, a day laborer, and his wife, Aklima Begum. They shared a hut made from corrugated tin and decaying wood and led a simple life that was suddenly marred a year ago with the return of Hena's cousin Mahbub Khan.

Mahbub Khan came back to Shariatpur from a stint working in Malaysia. His son was Hena's age and the two were in seventh grade together.

Khan eyed Hena and began harassing her on her way to school and back, said Hena's father. He complained to the elders who run the village about his nephew, three times Hena's age.

The elders admonished Mahbub Khan and ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines to Hena's family. But Mahbub was Darbesh's older brother's son and Darbesh was asked to let the matter fade.

Many months later on a winter night, as Hena's sister Alya told it, Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.

Hena struggled to escape, Alya told CNN. Mahbub Khan's wife heard Hena's muffled screams and when she found Hena with her husband, she dragged the teenage girl back to her hut, beat her and trampled her on the floor.

The next day, the village elders met to discuss the case at Mahbub Khan's house, Alya said. The imam pronounced his fatwa. Khan and Hena were found guilty of an illicit relationship. Her punishment under sharia or Islamic law was 101 lashes; his 201.

Mahbub Khan managed to escape after the first few lashes.

Darbesh Khan and Aklima Begum had no choice but to mind the imam's order. They watched as the whip broke the skin of their youngest child and she fell unconscious to the ground.

"What happened to Hena is unfortunate and we all have to be ashamed that we couldn't save her life," said Sultana Kamal, who heads the rights organization Ain o Shalish Kendro.

Bangladesh is considered a democratic and moderate Muslim country, and national law forbids the practice of sharia. But activist and journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who documents such cases, said sharia is still very much in use in villages and towns aided by the lack of education and strong judicial systems.

The Supreme Court also outlawed fatwas a decade ago, but human rights monitors have documented more than 500 cases of women in those 10 years who were punished through a religious ruling. And few who have issued such rulings have been charged.


Last month, the court asked the government to explain what it had done to stop extrajudicial penalty based on fatwa. It ordered the dissemination of information to all mosques and madrassas, or religious schools, that sharia is illegal in Bangladesh.

"The government needs to enact a specific law to deal with such perpetrators responsible for extrajudicial penalty in the name of Islam," Kamal told CNN.
The United Nations estimates that almost half of Bangladeshi women suffer from domestic violence and many also commonly endure rape, beatings, acid attacks and even death because of the country's entrenched patriarchal system.

Hena might have quietly become another one of those statistics had it not been for the outcry and media attention that followed her death on January 31.

'Not even old enough to be married'

Monday, the doctors responsible for Hena's first autopsy faced prosecution for what a court called a "false post-mortem report to hide the real cause of Hena's death."

Public outrage sparked by that autopsy report prompted the high court to order the exhumation of Hena's body in February. A second autopsy performed at Dhaka Medical College Hospital revealed Hena had died of internal bleeding and her body bore the marks of severe injuries.

Police are now conducting an investigation and have arrested several people, including Mahbub Khan, in connection with Hena's death.

"I've nothing to demand but justice," said Darbesh Khan, leading a reporter to the place where his daughter was abducted the night she was raped.

He stood in silence and took a deep breath. She wasn't even old enough to be married, he said, testament to Hena's tenderness in a part of the world where many girls are married before adulthood. "She was so small."

Hena's mother, Aklima, stared vacantly as she spoke of her daughter's last hours. She could barely get out her words. "She was innocent," Aklima said, recalling Hena's last words.

Police were guarding Hena's family earlier this month. Darbesh and Aklima feared reprisal for having spoken out against the imam and the village elders.

They had meted out the most severe punishment for their youngest daughter. They could put nothing past them.

Journalist Farid Ahmed reported from Shariatpur, Bangladesh, and CNN's Moni Basu reported from Atlanta.

Greenpeace: many more people should be evacuated from Fukushima area

RNW, 29 March 2011, by Johan van der Tol

(Photo: cartoonmovement)

The Greenpeace staff were dressed in white anti-radiation coveralls, while the local Japanese were wearing their normal street clothes. Dutch Greenpeace staff member Jacob Namminga says it was an alienating experience. Mr Namminga just recently returned from a fact-finding mission near the disaster area. He recorded high radiation levels at about 40 kilometres from the Fukushima power plant.

There is mounting pressure on Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to evacuate more people from the disaster area. Each day, new reports are being published about a partial melt-down, leaking radio-active water and plutonium-contaminated soil. Environmental organization Greenpeace has carried out its own measurements and recorded much higher radiation levels than those published by the Japanese government.

“The funny thing is that you cannot see radiation. It’s a beautiful environment; a spectacular mountain landscape. However, your meter shows that the area is badly contaminated” It was not the only surreal situation encountered by the five Greenpeace staff members during their mission in Japan.

“It’s really strange to be walking around in your white coveralls, and see someone step out of their car in their norm clothes. It makes you want to warn them about the danger, and we did. However, it’s of course difficult for these people to leave the village where they have been living for such a long time.“

Not safe

In Iitate, a village 40 kilometres northwest of the power plant, Greenpeace measured radiation levels of nearly 10 Microsievert per hour, sufficient to warrant an evacuation. However, the Japanese nuclear authorities say Greenpeace’ measurements are unreliable. On top of which, many residents of the region have already left, or so the authorities say.

According to Belgian Greenpeace radiation expert Jan van de Putte, “It’s clearly not safe for people to stay in Iitate, particularly for children and pregnant women. In just a few days, they may absorb the maximum dose of radiation for a whole year. The danger is even greater when the contamination takes place via contaminated food or inhaling radio-active particles.”

Not enough information

Mr Namminga is convinced of the accuracy of his measurements.

“I am certain our measurements are accurate. We all carried a personal radiation meter. We were a team of five people, and we all recorded the same readings. (…) It seems the Japanese government is drawing a different conclusion than we do, which is that it’s not necessary to evacuate people. We disagree.”

He blames the Japanese government for providing inadequate information about the problems with the nuclear power plant. Japanese newspapers regularly publish recorded radiation levels, but fail to mention the possible consequences. “The population is essentially being kept in the dark”, Mr Namminga says.

Safety measures

During their fact-finding mission, the Greenpeace staff members observed strict safety measures. In addition to the white coverall, face masks and extensive de-contamination procedures, they slept at a distance of 100 kilometres from Fukushima. According to Jacob Namminga, they were exposed to an amount of radiation not exceeding that of a normal x-ray. However, he fears that the population is being exposed to much higher levels of radiation.

“We were taking measurements near a primary school. Radiation levels there were close to 10 Microsieverts per hour, which is high. And that’s the kind of moment when I imagine children there going back to school again. That is a really strange notion. So I am really hoping that the Japanese government will change its mind and becomes a little clearer in its advice to its people.”

At present, all residents have been evacuated from a 20-kilometere radius around the power plants. People living between 20 and 30 kilometres from Fukushima are advised to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows closed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

RI to donate six cannons to Papua New Guinea

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 03/29/2011

The House of Representatives approved on Tuesday the Indonesian government's intention of granting six cannons belonging to the Army to neighboring Papua New Guinea.

The six cannons have a total value of Rp 437 million (US$50,255), and the plan to bestow them to Papua New Guinea is a follow-up to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's visit to the country earlier this month, deputy head of the House's Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs, Tubagus Hasanuddin, said.

Tubagus said the President planned after his visit to donate some salute guns to Papua New Guinea, after which he asked for the House's approval.

The grant is expected to further improve the bilateral relationship between the two countries, including their cooperation in the defense sector.

“The grant has a potentially positive impact on the national development,” Tubagus said, as quoted by

Marty, Rudd to jointly open Bali Process IV

Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali | Tue, 03/29/2011

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd are scheduled to open the Fourth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crimes, in Bali on Wednesday, an official statement says.

At list 18 ministers and officials from 41 participating countries from the Asia-Pacific region are set to attend the conference, commonly known as the Bali Process, says an official statement issued by the Foreign Ministry and received by The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Marty would also host the welcome dinner for all conference delegates, on Tuesday evening at a hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, where the conference will be held, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Participants are expected to see representatives from Timor Leste, the latest country to join the conference since it was initiated by the governments of Indonesia and Australia in 2002.

Officials from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and The International Organization for Migration (IMO) will also attend the conference, as observers.

The two organizations, along with Indonesia, Australia, Thailand and New Zealand, have been appointed as members of the conference steering group.

A senior officials meeting was held on Tuesday as a preliminary discussion prior to the conference but it was off limits to the media.

“This meeting will be the first Bali Process Ministerial conference to consider the proposal for a regional cooperation framework to address the irregular movement of people and to combat people smuggling,” a statement from the Australian Foreign Affairs Ministry says.

Asia Pacific countries have agreed to use the conference to seek solutions to the long-standing people smuggling issues that have affected many nations in the region.

Indonesia has been considered a vital player in the issue since the country has been used as a transit point for illegal immigrants. Middle East and Sri Lanka people who have also been believed to have used Indonesian people smugglers’ services to ship them to Australia where they seek refugee status and asylum.

Those who failed to proceed to the Australian mainland, stayed here and married Indonesian women, National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi said.

“Many of them joined terrorist groups and became drugs couriers to make a living.”

RI ready to send peace keeping force to Libya : official

Antara News, Tue, March 29 2011

Related News

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia is ready to send its Peace Keeping Mission Force to Libya, an official said.

"If necessary, we are ready to send a Peace Keeping Mission Force," Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said here at the Presidential Palace complex, Tuesday.

According to Purnomo, Indonesia would be ready to be involved into any peace keeping mission as it is one of the Southeast Asian countries that send most armed force for such mission.

The participation in keeping the world`s peace was also stated in the Constitution, Purnomo said.

However, Indonesia would send its peace keeping force to Libya if there is any commitment, either in the form of truce or negotiation, from the warring parties to bring peace to the country.

"Therefore, Indonesia would come to Libya not as a part of the coalition force," he said.

However, Purnomo could not give the exact number of the peace keeping mission personnel as it was based on the extent of the conflict area.

Indonesian government had called on all parties involved in the Libyan crisis, including the multinational force, to settle the dispute in a peaceful way to prevent more death casualties.

Previously, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in his official statement, the Indonesian government asked the UN to take part and initiative and also involve the regional organization such as the African Union and Arab League to find the solution politically.

There were only two elements in the UN Resolution no. 1973 about Libyan conflict settlement. They are the No-Fly Zone implementation and the prevention for civilian casualty, the President said.

According to the President, the implicit messages from the Resolution 1973 that were concerned by the Indonesian government were the need of the cease-fire and the political solution or peaceful solution to end the conflict in Libya.

Editor: Aditia Maruli

Egypt Asks for Indonesia’s Help in Implementing Democracy

Jakarta Globe, Ismira Lutfia | March 29, 2011

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, right, walking his
Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, prior to their meeting in Jakarta
on Tuesday. Marty is expected to visit Egypt next month to share Indonesia’s
experiences on its successes and failures during its ongoing transition to a
democracy. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Related articles

Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa is slated to visit Egypt next month to share Indonesia’s experiences on its successes and failures during its ongoing transition to a democracy.

“They have requested our assistance on the process of organizing an election and [setting up] regulations on political parties,” Marty said on Monday. “The process is ongoing now but we have to do it wisely so that it doesn’t seen seem as though we’re preaching to them.”

Speaking during a meeting with House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I for foreign relations, Marty said Tunisia had also sought the same assistance.

He said the correct approach to sharing information of the transitional process for Middle East countries was necessary to ensure that it was “measurable.”

“If we look back to 1998, we would not have wanted other countries telling us what to do regarding our democratization process here,” he said.

Marty added that a number of countries had sought to advise Egypt on its transition process, with Indonesia invited to join a Western-led group to assist Egypt in implementing democracy.

Indonesia, however, had declined the offer knowing that Egypt would not agree to it, he said.

“We used the bilateral approach, which was more acceptable and they opened up to us and invited us to come to share our experience,” he said.

“But we must ensure that we do it cautiously without giving the impression that we are lecturing them.”

Related Articles:

North, South Korean experts open rare talks about North's active volcano amid strained ties

By The Associated Press, March 29, 2011

North Korean delegation arrive to hold a meeting with their South Korean
counterpart to discuss a joint research on volcanic activity at the North's
highest Paektu mountain, at the Inter-Korean Transit Office in Paju, South Korea,
Tuesday, March 29, 2011. Experts from the two Koreas have begun rare talks on an
active volcano touted in the North as leader Kim Jong Il's sacred birthplace.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, South Korea — Experts from North and South Korea have begun rare talks about research into an active volcano touted in the North as leader Kim Jong Il's birthplace.

Tuesday's talks were arranged after North Korea offered to discuss joint research on its Mount Paektu earlier this month amid worries over natural disasters following Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The volcano last erupted in 1903, but minor earthquakes increased there between 2002 and 2005.

The talks may be an attempt by the North to improve strained ties between the divided Koreas.

Seoul's' Unification Ministry says geologists and volcanologists from the Koreas are meeting at the South Korean border village of Munsan.

Details of the meeting weren't immediately available.

Related Article:

Moroccan MPs angry at embassy in The Hague

RNW, 28 March 2011

MPs in Morocco are demanding details about the working conditions at Moroccan diplomatic missions in the Netherlands, Nourdine Moudian, deputy speaker of Morocco’s parliament, has confirmed to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Mr Moudian has met former embassy workers and describes working conditions at the Moroccan embassy and consulates in the Netherlands as “not to be tolerated”. He says the situation is “bad for Morocco’s image”.

About 60 people recruited locally in the Netherlands work at the various Moroccan diplomatic missions as support staff. They went on unofficial strike in February. Dutch unions accuse the embassy of structurally paying the staff less than the minimum wage. Other abuses are said to include failure to pay holiday money and incorrect salary slips.

A Dutch union official has told RNW that it’s a positive development that the issue is being debated in the Moroccan parliament. She insists, however, that any solution must be radical and involve a proper agreement.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3 types of plutonium detected at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant

CNN News, March 28th, 2011

Authorities hold a blue sheet over patients exposed to radiation at the
Fukushima nuclear power plant last week.

Three types of plutonium have turned up amid the radioactive contamination on the grounds of the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, its owner reported Monday.

The plutonium is a byproduct of nuclear reactions that is also part of the fuel mix at the damaged No. 3 reactor.

It was found in soil at five different points inside the plant grounds, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said late Monday.

Plutonium can be a serious health hazard if inhaled or ingested, but external exposure poses little health risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

UN puts East Timor police back in charge

BBC News, By Kate McGeown, Jakarta, 28 March 2011

Related Stories

The East Timorese police force has now taken back full control of security in the country from the United Nations.

The UN took over responsibility for security after
violent clashes in East Timor in 2006
UN forces took charge of East Timor's security in 2006 after a series of violent clashes which threatened to push the country into civil unrest.

The UN has been slowly transferring power back to the East Timorese police force ever since it took over security operations five years ago.

UN forces were first withdrawn after East Timor gained independence in 2002.

But four years later a third of the armed forces were dismissed, sparking clashes between the police and the military - 15% of the population fled their homes.

Some UN police will still remain in the country until next year's elections, when the UN's peacekeeping mission officially ends.

"We will continue to work side-by-side," UN Special Representative for East Timor Ameerah Haq said.

She said the East Timorese police would be "squarely in the driver's seat". The UN will focus on training.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where Have S'pore's Indonesian Maids Gone?

Jakarta Globe, Radha Basu - Straits Times Indonesia | March 27, 2011

Singapore Maid agency staff interviewing women at Sukses Mandiri
Utama, a maid training center in Jakarta. Such ceners teach English
and skills relevant for working as a maid, among other things.
(ST Photo/Nuria Ling)

Related articles

It makes for an unlikely dream factory. At a whitewashed house on the outskirts of Jakarta, 120 Indonesian women are striving to fulfill a cherished migrant ambition.

They are training to be maids and to look after other people's homes in affluent parts of the region. It is often their only ticket out of penury.

Singapore has long been a coveted destination. But its allure is fading fast.

Ask how many want to work in Taiwan and 66 hands promptly shoot skywards. Another 39 favor Hong Kong, but only 15 cite Singapore as their dream destination.

Why is that, you ask. Singapore is safe, clean and so close to home. Why do they not want to work there?

"Money not enough, Ma'am," the women intone in unison. "Taiwan, Hong Kong got higher salary."

The labor squeeze that has long been a by-product of globalization and booming Asian economies seems to have reached the lower strata of the job market. Women, even from desperately poor backgrounds, can afford to be a bit choosier these days, as maid recruiters in Indonesia are finding out.

This group of women is being trained by Sejahtera Eka Pratama (SEP), an employment agency in Bekasi, near Jakarta.

A similar story is playing out in Pangkalan, a sleepy West Java hamlet about 250km away. Of the 5,000 families living there, at least 4,000 have a son or a daughter working in a low-paying job overseas. The hamlet's dirt roads are accessible only via motorbike.

Sukarma Mahmud, 50, a village recruiter who supplies Indonesian employment agencies with women willing to work as domestic labor overseas, is doing his rounds.

He is making his pitch to Kesih Suta, 23, as she sits on a mat in her parents' two-room home. She returned to her village last December after seven years away working as a maid in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

"You will earn more than you did for sure," he promises the petite woman whose last pay was around $320 per month. "You may even get four days off a month."

But Kesih, the eldest child of an odd-job worker and a farmer, looks unconvinced. "I can earn even more in Taiwan,' she says in Bahasa.

Sukarma changes tack. "You help me and I help you," he cajoles.

"You pay me something then?" she counters, as her two younger siblings - both under 10 - play nearby. "My parents could use the money.

Would 2 million rupiah (S$290) be enough, he asks.

'I'll think about it,' she smiles. 'No promises.'

Low pay, high qualifications

Indonesia is Singapore's biggest supplier of foreign domestic workers, with at least 90,000 of its citizens working in the Republic.

But a number of factors are taking the gloss off Singapore as a destination, as The Straits Times discovered during a recent visit to training centers and kampungs near Jakarta.

Interviews with 10 Jakarta-based employment agencies and dozens of women who have worked or plan to work as maids overseas found that low pay, high eligibility criteria and the surge in demand from Taiwan, where the women can earn twice what they can here, are undermining Singapore's appeal.

The relatively low wages that Singaporean employers pay for domestic help compared with rates in Hong Kong or Taiwan are by far the biggest disincentive.

An Indonesian maid with no experience who comes to Singapore gets around S$380 a month, though some recruiters are trying to increase that to S$450, with at least one day off.

With wage levels left strictly to market forces and individual employers and maids to determine, some earn even less. Some agencies in Indonesia still recruit maids for S$350 a month or less. Some of these operators are unlicensed.

In Hong Kong, where minimum wage laws are in place, a maid earns at least HK$3,580 (S$581), with at least one day off a week. Unlike in Singapore, domestic workers there are also covered by employment laws and entitled to all public holidays off plus paid annual leave.

Maids in Taiwan can command at least NT$15,840 ($678), with four days off a month. They are also paid extra for working on days off.

Malaysia used to be at the bottom of the table when it came to paying Indonesian maids, but the Jakarta government banned its maids from working there last year after a rise in alleged cases of abuse. Maids in the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Middle East still receive S$350, or less, but the employers absorb all recruitment costs, unlike in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Also, typically, better-off Middle Eastern households employ a few maids each, so the individual workload is lighter.

While Singapore employers generally pay less than those in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the eligibility criteria are the highest.

A worker has to be at least 23 years old and have at least eight years' education to come here. Taiwan and Hong Kong only require domestic workers to be 21 or over. There are no official education criteria, though maids generally have at least primary-level education.

Nurfaizi Suwandi, chairman of Apjati, the Indonesian Manpower Services Association, says: "Twenty-three-year-olds might find it hard to want to work in Singapore for S$380 or S$400, when 21-year-olds are getting close to S$700 in Taiwan."

The body has 330 members, making it Indonesia's largest association for employment agencies.

"The 19- and 20-year-olds who want to come and work in Singapore don't stand a chance."

A few years ago, domestic workers fresh from their villages initially went to Malaysia or Singapore to gain experience, before moving on to higher-paid jobs elsewhere. As Singapore provided an important training ground, it seemed fair that maids were paid less, say agents.

For instance, when Titin Kartini, 26, the eldest of three children of penniless West Java farmers, decided to work overseas a decade ago, she chose Singapore. She earned S$230 a month and worked for a family with three young children.

She had no days off and was not allowed to go out on her own, but she did not mind. "I just focused on learning how to cook and clean, and I also picked up Mandarin," she says. "All I wanted was to move to Hong Kong."

She did so in 2004, and worked there until 2008 for around S$600 a month.

Titin has spent the past three years teaching English at a village school, but is now keen to be off again, this time to Taiwan. "I have always had good employers, but I really want to earn more," says the articulate and confident woman, who can cook for up to 30 people at a time.

Taiwan is attractive not just for the $700 salary.

Unlike in Hong Kong, where she says she was forced to take four days off a month by law - and in doing so spending precious money - she says Taiwan allows her to work on her days off.

By working three Sundays a month, she can earn an additional $70, she calculates.

Opportunities elsewhere

But experienced workers like Titin are not the only ones flocking to Taiwan and Hong Kong these days, says Charles Butar Butar, who heads SEP. Increasingly, even Indonesians with limited or no experience also prefer to start out there.

His agency now supplies around 120 maids to Taiwan and 100 to Hong Kong every month, up from around 80 and 50, respectively, five years ago. There has been a corresponding decrease in supply to Singapore, with only 20 or so of his maids headed here, down from 100 five years ago.

Said Butar Butar: "The Indonesians are increasingly seen to be more obedient and willing to fit into the Chinese culture. And Taiwan and Hong Kong employers don't mind if they have little or no experience."

The Singapore market is getting hit by another factor as well - a depleting supply of Filipino domestic workers, who have long been the Indonesians' rivals in the region.

"For some reason, Filipinas are not coming in the numbers they used to be," says the agency boss. "Indonesians are taking their place."

Filipino maids are increasingly turning down Singapore jobs unless they are paid a Philippine government-stipulated minimum salary of US$400 ($506). This has led to a surge in demand for Indonesians here.

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore confirms that the supply of Filipina domestic workers in the region has been falling in recent years.

More of them prefer to work as retail assistants and factory workers, or go further afield for higher-paying jobs as domestic workers in Canada, Spain and Italy or factory workers in Taiwan, its labor attache Rodolfo Sabulao told The Straits Times.

Indonesians, too, are navigating hitherto unexplored fields, points out Nurfaizi. They are finding jobs on cruise ships in the United States and Europe, and - through a government-to-government program - as health-care workers in Japan.

Even bribes do not work

In a region flush with opportunity, it is small wonder then that many young women in Indonesian villages are reluctant to come to Singapore.

After failing to convince Kesih, Sukarma, the village recruiter, drops in on Zubaidah Nono Suoyana, 27, a former factory worker now planning to work overseas as a maid.

Zubaidah has two young children, including a month-old son, and her husband's pay as an odd-job laborer is not enough for the family. She says she heard on the radio that girls willing to go to Singapore stand to gain an advance payment of 4 million rupiah.

As she has no experience as a maid - a stint in Saudi Arabia was aborted last year when her employer sent her home within a month - Zubaidah initially agrees to work for anything above $350 a month.

But the moment she learns that she might have to live on only $20 a month - or possibly even $10 - for up to nine months while she pays off the recruitment costs, she lets out a small shriek. "I won't even be able to breathe on that money. No way I could survive."

She says her Saudi employer's wife sent her back because she believed her husband was paying her too much attention.

"In Saudi Arabia, there were no deductions," she says. "How do maids survive in Singapore for so long with so little money?"

As he leaves her home, Sukarma claims that he increasingly has to pay maids and their families up to 5 million rupiah to coax them to even consider Singapore.

Recruiters emphasize that the supply of maids from Indonesia has not dried up. But there is a definite crunch in the supply of quality maids.

Says recruitment agent Rudy Hart: "There will always be some who want to go, but their quality is in question." He knows of women who take the "ang pow" money and come to Singapore, only to find that the work is too hard for them. "They then run away and return home," he says. "The agents try to chase them for refunds, but often they don't get any."

Dreaded English test

Singapore's supply is further depleted by the exacting entrance requirements, say Indonesian agents. In April 2005, Singapore introduced a compulsory test in English for all maids that radically changed the game, says Butar Butar.

With better-educated women generally gunning for higher-paying jobs in Hong Kong and Taiwan or other professions elsewhere - and Malaysia out of bounds due to the Indonesian government ban - Singapore is increasingly becoming the place for those who cannot really go anywhere else.

Even if they have completed the mandatory eight years of schooling that Singapore requires, they hardly know any English, points out Antony Rais, who teaches English at Sumber Kencana Sejahtera, a large employment agency on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Although statistics from Singapore's Ministry of Manpower show that nearly 95 per cent of all domestic workers pass the test, Indonesian agents say the number for Indonesians is lower.

Says Mr Hart: "The 95 per cent includes Filipinos, who probably find the test easy." In his agency, which supplies around 50 girls to Singapore every month, about a third fail the test.

In Butar Butar's agency, the pass rate sometimes falls even lower. "Just last week, I sent nine girls to Singapore and six returned after failing the test," he says.

One sultry afternoon earlier this month, Antony coached a class of 40.

The women prepare for the class by memorizing the answers to 400 questions similar to those found in the Singapore test, with a Bahasa-English dictionary at their side.

The questions are framed in such a way that the women learn not only the basics of English, but also information directly relevant to their work as domestic workers. They also learn about their rights.

"Where in Singapore can you work?" asks Mr Antony, first in English and then in Bahasa. "Only in my employer's house," choruses the class, picking the correct answer from the list of four options.

Later, they learn what a "three-in-one" coffee mix is, how Indonesian helpers should be given at least one day off a month when they work in Singapore and how they can call their agent, embassy or a hotline run by the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) if they are not paid.

But learning by rote in a group setting is not always effective. As the class progresses, some play with their pencils or stare at the corridor outside, lost in thought.

Tough employers

While novices are eager to work in Singapore, some returnees are reluctant to go back.

Many narrate stories of how Singaporeans can be tough employers, unlike those in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Many rue what they call their lack of freedom.

From June 2009, when Siti Nurjanah Surjono left Jakarta to go to Singapore to work, till October last year, her parents did not hear from her even once.

Then, on Hari Raya last year, she called her mother. "It was like she came back from the dead," recounts her mother, Julekha Sutana, 45.

Nurjanah, 24, claims that from the time she began working for a family of five adults in Jurong, she was not allowed to leave her employer's home on her own, or even to make a phone call. Her primary duty was to look after the ailing matriarch of the family. She also claims that both she and the elderly woman were not given enough to eat.

Shortly after her first phone call home - 16 months later - the elderly woman died. Nurjanah was returned to the agency and asked to be sent back home.

Meanwhile, her sister Marfuah Surjono, 27, spent eight years working for two families in Hong Kong without incident. She was given enough food, had regular days off and the keys to the house. "My employers even took me to Ocean Park," she beams, referring to a theme park.

Marfuah, who now works as a Cantonese teacher to trainee maids, says she frequently shares her story - and that of her sister's - with prospective maids: "They need to be informed about the risks before they can make choices."

But Singapore still retains its attraction for one group of women who would work here again in a heartbeat - maids who have had fair employers and enjoyed their stints in the Lion City.

Siti Sopiah, 28, a farmer's wife with a one-year-old son worked for the same Bukit Timah family - a married couple, their son and the child's elderly grandmother - for seven years.

She said her employers were concerned about her well-being, frequently asking her if she was happy. They also bought her clothes and gave her generous ang pows during Chinese New Year.

When she left - she says she wanted to "take a rest and get married" - they gave her four gold chains. "All my time there, I only received kindness," she says. "And I tried to pay it back by working hard."

She is now training to return to Singapore. "It's clean, safe and the people are kind," she adds.

The best part, she says, is that her agency is negotiating a salary of at least S$450. "I am really looking forward to going back."

Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to Straits Times Indonesia and/or the Jakarta Globe call 2553 5055.

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