Ahead of Jokowi visit, ‘racist’ vacuum ad blows up storm in Jakarta

A Malaysian advertisement for a robotic vacuum cleaner that advises buyers to ‘fire your Indonesian maid’ has met with anger in Indonesia. — File pic
A Malaysian advertisement for a robotic vacuum cleaner that advises buyers to ‘fire your Indonesian maid’ has met with anger in Indonesia. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 — A Malaysian advertisement telling buyers of a robotic vacuum to “fire your Indonesian maid” has met with anger in the Southeast Asian republic, with Indonesian media labelling it “racist” and “hurtful”.

The Indonesian government has also delivered a protest note to the Malaysian Foreign Ministry, demanding the latter ban the advertisement by RoboVac Malaysia in both its physical and online forms.

“[The embassy] asks the Malaysian government to take steps to ensure that any product advertisements with elements of racism and hurting the feelings of Indonesians will not recur in the future,” said a statement on the Indonesian embassy’s website.

The embassy said it has also employed a retainer lawyer to examine the possibility of legal action, in addition to lodging a report with the Selangor police.

“Moreover, this has emerged ahead of President Joko Widodo’s visit to Malaysia on February 5 to 7, which aims to enhance and deepen the bilateral relations between Indonesia and Malaysia, which are mutually beneficial,” ambassador Herman Prayitno added in the statement.

The advertisement also drew the ire of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who urged Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to act strictly to defend Indonesia’s dignity.

“You can’t fire someone like that! … That was really insolent,” Basuki said, as quoted by Indonesian news portal Merdeka.com.

RoboVac Malaysia is a company based in Kota Damansara, Selangor, selling robotic vacuums, floor scrubbers, floor mops and swimming pool cleaners.

Indonesian maids had formed nearly 90 per cent of the Malaysia’s domestic helpers before the 2009 moratorium here, but remain the most popular supplier of such workers to Malaysia due to similar language and other cultural habits.

The freeze was lifted in 2011, but employers still have difficulty obtaining Indonesian workers due to scarcity and high costs.

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