03 March 2007

Missing sister. Missing daughter.

Where are you, Halima? (1)

SHOLIHIN was not only confused after being treated like ping pong ball, a popular Indonesian expression, saying that he was sent away by a placement agency to police office and back again to the agency several times. Police officers also almost scolded him. Even though he has sacrificed a lot in getting information about her sister, it was to no avail to know and to find her. No one dared to say he or she was responsible of the ‘disappearance’ of this maid who hails from a village in the surrounding of Sentul plantation (Perkebunan Sentul Afdeling) at Suci village in Jember district of East Java.

He was eaten up by this bitter experience. All started after his sister Halima passed vocational high school for small business of SMEA in Panti subdistrict in Jember nine years ago. Halima then asked for permission from her father to allow her to work abroad as a maid. The peasant family was indeed poor that actually her father could not say otherwise. He later tried to find someone who could help her finding the way to work overseas.

Eventually in 1977 he found migrant worker recruitment sponsor named Heri who stayed at Mangli village housing complex at the suburb of Jember district capital. Halima then were taken as a ‘maid candidate’ as she was placed at Heri’s house. During her stay her family visited her three times. At the last visit however they missed meeting Halima since she had been transferred to the Indonesia’s capital of capital of Jakarta, supposedly before departing overseas.

As the family found things seemed to happen as planned, her brother Sholihin then worked in other island of Borneo (Kalimantan) when Halima “was prepared” to go working abroad. Seven months later, Halima sent a message letter that she was about to be sent to Malaysia, a hard country for unskilled migrant workers like from Indonesia or the Philippines. Law has strangely allowed Malaysians to look down Indonesians who mostly look like them physically. Native Malaysians ethnically are very close to many people from western Indonesia’s areas.

In the letter Halima also asked for some money of Rp30.000 (about 4 to 5 $ US in at the time), which she requested to send to PT Syafika Jaya Utama, the agency that made her possible to go overseas. The agency formerly had an office at the Jember city’s suburb but now you will not find it again. She apparently has got her way to Malaysia by then.

However, strange thing started to take place. There were particularly no news at all from Halima even after two years. This no-news anxiety has driven her brother, who only worked as a low-waged worker, to leave his work in Kalimantan and went back home to Jember. He encountered Heri at his house to ask about Halima’s where-about. According to Heri, Halima very likely took longer work contract in Malaysia. Heri succeeded to calm Sholihin’s deep concern, saying that ‘making longer contract was very common among migrant workers overseas.’

Feeling relieved for Heri’s answer, Sholihin went back to Kalimantan to resume his work. However, nothing was happening. No news from her. It was disturbing for him. It was now already the fourth year of no news. This had driven Heri to ask again Heri for responsibility. However, Heri was not home. The morning after he went again to Heri’s place and eventually Sholihin could meet Heri, he was only then being suggested to go himself to the agency’s office to meet a certain Mamad. The latter was claimed as the person of the agency who was in charge to manage Halimah’s and other migrant works’ trip to go abroad. (to be continued)

Read more sooner: What did Sholihin follow up in finding his sister? Was Heri a sponsor who could be taken responsible? Was Heri a ‘sponsor’ or a ‘scalper’, actually? Who was Mamad, a new face in the story? Why was he missing? Was it not actually a human trafficking? Read: If so what are the real police's jobs? Where are you, Halima? (2)*

Click here to see Halima's picture.

About the authors.
Preliminary investigation was conducted by Mohammad Cholili cum suis from the Indonesian Migrant Workers Movement Organization (GBMI) in Jember district, E Java. Sri Maryanti rewrites the story.

See Indonesian version.

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