Indonesian maid's beheading is a blow to President Yudhoyono's claims

While President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was busy boasting to the world of his success in protecting Indonesia's migrant workers, the brutal execution of an Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia may prove otherwise.

As Yudhoyono returned to Jakarta after six-day foreign visit, including to Geneva, Switzerland, where he boasted of his success in cooperating with other countries to protect Indonesian migrant workers, the beheading of Ruyati binti Satubi by the Saudi government, the clip of which was posted on Saudi Arabia-based alriyadh.com, has shocked many Indonesians at home.

Human rights activists and experts were quick to call Yudhoyono's speech shameful and worthless while others said Indonesia's diplomacy failed because NGOs knew about the execution well before the Foreign Ministry did.

"The beheading of Ruyati shows Yudhoyono's speech at the ILC [International Labour Conference] meeting was just empty. The fact is the government fails to protect migrant workers," Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

"The beheading is also clearly an embarrassment for Yudhoyono. The question is why did Saudi Arabia execute Ruyati? Were there any efforts by Yudhoyono to persuade the Saudi government to stop the execution?"

Anis cited a time when late former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid persuaded the Saudi king to annul the execution of an Indonesian maid in 1999.

The government said Sunday it would lodged a diplomatic protest with the Saudi government as Saudi Arabia did not inform Indonesia or Ruyati's family about the execution.

"With all due respect to Saudi law, the Indonesian government condemns the fact that the execution did not comply with international practice," a Foreign Ministry statement read.

The ministry underlined the need for the Saudi government to conduct due legal process.

"In this regard, the Indonesian government notes that in the cases where our migrant workers become victims of a crime in Saudi Arabia, the legal process becomes prolonged," it said.

The ministry said it would summon the Indonesian ambassador in Riyadh to discuss the issue.

In Geneva, Yudhoyono's "Forging a new global employment framework for social justice and equality" speech at the ILC highlighted his administration's intensified cooperation with other countries to ensure the safety and protection of migrant workers.

Yudhoyono received a standing ovation at the 100th ILC meeting for his speech.

"We have developed arrangements with host countries, to ensure that [migrant worker] rights are respected and protected, including their rights to a minimum wage and days off," Yudhoyono said.

"We are also upgrading their knowledge and skills that will make them a greater asset to their employers and contribute more to the host economies."

Alriyadh.com quoted the Saudi Ministry of the Interior as saying that Ruyati was executed in the western province of Mecca on Saturday for killing a Saudi woman with a machete.

The ministry claimed Ruyati confessed to her crime and that the death sentence was endorsed by the Cassation Court and Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia.

Indonesian Workers Legal Aid Association (PBHTKI) executive director Benhard Nababan said he was not surprised to learn of the execution given the poor commitment from the Indonesian government to protecting migrant workers.

"Yudhoyono's speech at the ILC hides the real fact of the insensitivity of his administration, including Indonesian embassy officials abroad, to protect migrant workers," Benhard told the Post.

Both Migrant Care and the PBHTKI called on Yudhoyono to summon high-ranking officials, including the foreign minister, manpower and transmigration minister and the National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Overseas Labor (BNP2TKI) to address the execution of Ruyati.

University of Indonesia inter-national law professor Hikmahanto Juwana urged the government to be tough on the Saudi government, calling on it to stop sending workers there or to take diplomatic actions, ranging from recalling its ambassador to the kingdom to scaling down its representation there.

"We need to show our displeasure at not being informed about the execution. We need to take such actions so that in the future the Saudi government will not repeat this conduct," he said.