Newsmen’s detention further strains ties with Indonesia
KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — Three Indonesian journalists detained in Negri Sembilan last week have accused Malaysian police of shouting derogatory remarks about their home country and impeding their work, the Jakarta Globe has reported.
The incident, on top of the fatal shooting of three Indonesian migrant workers here in March, have drawn flak from Jakarta lawmakers and is likely to strain further Malaysia’s ties with the Southeast Asian giant.
The Jakarta Globe reported that the March shooting incident “has incensed many Indonesian politicians, who accuse the Malaysians of being trigger-happy and all too willing to shoot Indonesians”.
Ilham Khoiri of Kompas, Zen Teguh Triwibowo of Seputar Indonesia and Muhammad Fauzi of Media Indonesia told the Jakarta-based daily in an interview published yesterday they were part of an official Indonesian government delegation that included lawmakers and officials from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
The group was sent here to look into the deaths of three Indonesian workers — Herman, Abdul Kadir Jaelani and Mad Noon — who were shot dead close to Port Dickson on March 24, allegedly for provoking the police after they were caught with machetes.
“Our arrest definitely prevented us from interviewing residents where the incident occurred,” the paper quoted Muhammad Fauzi as saying.
“Secondly, the Malaysian government, including the Malaysian police, are really not transparent and have been very slow [to investigate] the shooting of the three migrant workers in Port Dickson.”
The trio were picked up for questioning on May 10 and taken to a police station in Tampin Kanan for alleged trespass, following a complaint by a resident.
The Star has also reported both the Indonesian embassy here and Negri Sembilan police chief Osman Salleh confirming that the journalists were not arrested.
“We did not arrest them as well as the two Indonesian students who are studying here and were part of the same group.
“We just brought them in for questioning to verify their status with the Indonesian embassy after they trespassed into homes,” Osman was reported as saying in The Star last May 11.
“They were treated well and were only questioned for administrative purposes before being released into the custody of embassy officials at around 12.30am on Thursday,” acting Indonesian ambassador Mulya Wirana was reported saying in The Star.
The newsmen, however, gave a different account.
The reporters told Jakarta Globe they were on their way to visit the site of the shootings after getting an invitation from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) last week, but got lost and were arrested by the police after they stopped at a house to ask for directions.
Muhammad Fauzi told Jakarta Globe that the reporters were questioned at length and separately at the police station, and that the Malaysian officers shouted at them, despite being informed they were part of the official delegation and the arrests were unwarranted.
Another officer then allegedly made derogatory comments about Indonesia, the paper reported Muhammad Fauzi saying, but gave no example of the words used.
“We hope to get an explanation [from the delegation] about this incident,” the paper quoted Farouk Muhammad, a member of Indonesia’s Regional Representatives Council, as saying when Malaysian senators and police officials visit Indonesia.
The paper reported that in Jakarta, lawmakers were quick to react to news of the arrest of the journalists, and urged the Foreign Ministry to push the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia to address the incident.
“The arrest of the three Indonesian journalists adds to the list of Malaysia’s sins toward Indonesia,” Mahfudz Siddiq, the chairman of House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defence and foreign affairs, was quoted in the Jakarta Globe as saying last week.