Looks like Malaysians will not be able to get maids from Indonesia following the Indonesian Government's decision to stop its nationals from taking on such employment here.
This came about after the latest case of Siti Hajar, an Indonesian maid allegedly abused by her female employer for three years.
Hers, of course, was not the first reported case. A high-profile case before this was that of Nirmala Bonet.
Jakarta thinks that there are just too many of such abuse cases and wants to put a stop to all this.
I think Jakarta has got it wrong and is overreacting.
We all cringe when we hear of such cases. Punish the abuser, we cry. We all want to see justice served.
Of course, we understand the anger of the Indonesian Government over the abuse of their nationals.
I'd also like the Indonesian Government to understand that Malaysians are not as a people, abusive.
We are not a nation of abusers. There are abusers among us. When these abusers are made known to us, we make sure that they are dealt with accordingly.
Just ask around. Many will express their anger over Siti Hajar's case.
That is why I think Jakarta's reaction is hasty.
Human Resources Minister Dr S. Subramaniam said an average of 50 cases were reported annually. There are some 300,000 Indonesian maids working here.
While the number is relatively small, any case of abuse is worrying. Still, I believe that by and large, Indonesian maids are treated well by their Malaysian employers.
I know of many cases of maids cheating their employers, abusing their charges and running away from their (good) employers. And there's really nothing that these employers could do.
I can imagine that there will be many Indonesians who will try to illegally enter the country to seek employment now that they will not be allowed to work in Malaysia as maids.
The truth is, Indonesians still look to Malaysia for a better life. The truth is, there are more good Malaysian employers than bad ones.
There are many issues (relating to employment of foreign workers) that need to be ironed out, particularly on policies and enforcement.
You cannot ensure that every employer will be good. But you can ensure that none gets away when he or she breaks the law.
We should ask ourselves if we need strict regulations in the employment of maids such as working hours and provision of off days and holidays.
Subramaniam has suggested that maids be given a day off a week. That's a fine idea. But I know that not all maids will benefit from this. Nor their employers.
I had a neighbour who would get a visit from the police every Sunday -- his (Filipino) maid would be back drunk or totally sloshed.
I had a maid who would come back from her weekend "cuti" all tired out after going to all sorts of places. I had to tell her to minimise her "bersiar-siar" and to just have a good rest over the weekend.
My current maid would have a dilemma over what to do if I ask her to go out on her off days.
She does not like car rides, much less, bus rides. She hates crowds and open places.
She much prefers to stay home and watch TV. Of course, she may be an exception to the rule. So, lucky me.
I'm not the world's best employer but to me, my maid is more my domestic assistant who helps me do what I am not able to do while I am at work.
My children are teenagers, so they're pretty independent. Still, I feel my daughter needs adult company while I'm at work.
My maid and I share the workload and chores. I won't allow her to do what I myself am not able to do. And she does not wash my car, nor clean the windows.
Her working days are actually what my days off are. Her days off are spent not washing, ironing, cleaning or cooking. Just resting.
I know that many working mothers need domestic help. Indonesians are generally hardworking and have been proven to be good as maids.
It's a pity that the Indonesian Government has taken such a stand.
I believe that they do not have to because I don't believe that Malaysians are bad employers.