Thu, Dec 19, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Legislators demand revenge on Jakarta

BROAD ATTACK Suggestions included withdrawing Taiwan's representatives to Indonesia, continuing the ban on the country's workers and ending investments

By Crystal Hsu and Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Lawmakers from across party lines yesterday urged the government to impose economic sanctions on Indonesia in retaliation for what they described as humiliating remarks from Jakarta on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) aborted visit to the country.

DPP lawmakers have launched a signature drive calling for the retention of a current ban on the importation of Indonesian workers, which the Council of Labor Affairs is considering lifting after a favorable response on labor migration issues from the Indonesian side in November. The KMT caucus has suggested ending all bilateral investment projects.

PFP Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) insisted the government indefinitely recall its representatives based in Indonesia unless Jakarta offers an apology within 24 hours.

In what is widely being viewed as appeasement of Beijing, Jakarta has refused official visits by Taiwanese leaders. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda was reported by the English-language Jakarta Post as saying Chen would have been denied entry had he pressed on with his visit.

Outraged by the unfriendly statements, DPP Legislator Chen Tsiao-long (陳朝龍) has mounted a campaign asking the Council of Labor Affairs to continue its ban the importation of Indonesian workers.

Chen Tsiao-long said he found Jakarta intolerably rude even in dealings with a country with which it has no diplomatic ties.

"We must do something to make our indignation known," he said.

Government statistics show that more than 97,700 Indonesians work in Taiwan, the second largest group of foreign laborers. They wire some NT$24 billion home each year.

Indonesian workers also top the list of foreign laborers who run away from their jobs. Of the 5,089 foreign workers reported missing last year, 2,804 were Indonesian, according to official data.

KMT Legislator Sun Kuo-hwa (孫國華) said the government should take a tough stand and scrap Indonesia-bound investment projects worth US$17 billion.

"They have more to lose as more than 200,000 Taiwanese tourists head for Indonesia each year," he said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conveyed the legislators' concerns to Iskandar Sabirin, head of the Indonesia Economic and Trade Office to Taipei.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said on Tuesday that the government was considering ways to retaliate for the Indonesian foreign minister's remarks.

Nevertheless, Chien said yesterday that his ministry would not take any further steps until Jakarta had had an opportunity to respond to Taipei's formal protest.

Meanwhile, Vice Premier Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) yesterday said the Executive Yuan plans to discuss whether to revise its "go south" economic policy, under which the government encourages companies to invest in Southeast Asia.

Lin made the remark after presenting awards to 11 outstanding diplomatic officers at the Executive Yuan yesterday morning.

Kuo Fang-yu (郭芳煜), director-general of the council's Employment and Vocational Training Administration, emphasized that acceptance of Indonesian workers would eventually resume.

"There has never been a timetable for the resumption. We have to wait and see whether the Indonesian government's proposal is working, and one month is not long enough to tell," Kuo told reporters.

Additional reporting by staff reporters

Ko Shu-Ling and Monique Chu.

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