Indonesia protests to Malaysia over detention of diplomat’s wife

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/10/09/asia/AS-GEN-Malaysia-Indonesia-Mistaken-Identity.php
The Associated Press Tuesday, October 9, 2007
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Indonesia has protested to Malaysia over the detention of a diplomat’s wife by security personnel who mistook her for an illegal immigrant, an official said Tuesday.

The Indonesian Embassy sent a protest note to Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry after volunteer security force members detained Muslianah Nurdin, the wife of the embassy’s culture attache, at a market district in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, said embassy official Shanti Utami Retnaningsih.

Security corps members placed Nurdin with other illegal immigrants because they failed to recognize her diplomatic identity card, but she was released later after convincing them that she was with the embassy, Retnaningsih said.

“They treated her like an illegal immigrant. … It’s unacceptable,” Retnaningsih said. “This incident shows disrespect to members of our embassy.”

A Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing protocol, said the ministry had not received the note, but declined to comment further.

Zaidon Asmuni, director general of the 450,000-strong volunteer force known as RELA, said he was looking into the incident. But he noted it was the usual procedure to detain suspected illegal immigrants until their status could be confirmed.

In a separate incident last week, the embassy said RELA members who were inspecting residences for suspected illegal immigrants on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur broke down the apartment door of an Indonesian student who had valid documents.

Retnaningsih said Indonesians were frequently targeted by RELA and unlawfully detained.

RELA personnel “ignore the ID cards. They just apprehend them and treat them like they are people who are illegals,” she said.

Rights groups have called for the disbandment of RELA, saying its members use unnecessary force against migrant workers and sometimes rob illegal immigrants during raids. RELA volunteers are allowed to make arrests and enter or search premises without a search or arrest warrant.

Malaysia relies heavily on foreign laborers for menial work, but regularly deports illegal immigrants widely blamed for crime and social problems. There are estimated to be at least 500,000 illegal immigrants, mainly from Indonesia.

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